The city of Denver has completed a six month study concerning the use of body cameras on police and they have created and released a draft policy to the public. The policy precedes the city’s new body cam program which will implement 800 cameras to police over the next 5 years. The camera program will cost about 6 million dollars and the cameras are made by Taser International, which also offers storage and retrieval services for the recorded video. The cameras begin rolling out at the end of the year and into 2016.
The policy outlines the protocol for when and how officers utilize the cameras. It includes guidelines on maintenance, informing people they are being filmed, when to turn them on, how long to let them record and how to document the interactions.
Body cams are intended to protect everyone involved in an interaction with the police by providing evidence to all sides of the story. Studies indicate everyone is less likely to be violent and confrontational when they know cameras are on. It increases accountability and many in law enforcement also hope it offers a more balanced view of what police have to deal with day to day. Activists, in turn, want the increased accountability to expose and correct inappropriate behavior among police.
Others however have pointed out some disadvantages. Some civil rights activists believe off duty cops should have them and be trained to use them if they are pulled into a situation off duty. Independent monitor to the Denver study, Nicholas Mitchell, said that in a number of questionable incidents during the trial officers did not use the cameras. He also noted that technical issues and other misuse may interfere with their function. Some concerned about privacy have also remarked that video may expose or record aspects of the interaction that are incidental and perhaps embarrassing. And others have expressed concern that some people may react negatively to being filmed, making the situation more volatile.
The new policy is designed to address these issues and help train officers in proper use. It also outlines consequences for officers who don’t follow the protocol or worse, flagrantly disregard it. But it has been criticized for not following all of independent monitor Mitchell’s recommendations, which have been adopted by other states and the American Bar Association.
Currently, the DPD acknowledges that the policy is a work in progress and is accepting comments from the public over the next week. The email to provide feedback is DPDCommunityFeedbackBodyWornCamera@denvergov.org
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