“The occupant was said to be violent, so officer Carlos Ramirez approached the apartment warily. A dank smell wafted from inside. Ramirez bristled with body armour, radio, gun and Taser, but before knocking on the door he adjusted just one piece of equipment: a tiny camera on his collar” Carlos Ramirez is a member of the police department located in Rialto, California. Over the past year every member in the department was given a body camera. A study conducted in Rialto on the effects of body cameras by Police Foundation Executive and Rialto’s Chief of police Tony Farrar, and coauthored with Dr. Barak Ariel of Cambridge University, reveals that body cameras significantly reduced the use of violence by officers and number of complaints, according to Rory Carroll. Rory Carroll is an Irish journalist working for the British national daily newspaper, The Guardian. He is a correspondent on the west coast of the United States. He has also traveled to Iraq, Africa, and Latin America to write for The Guardian. Due to his current location on the west coast, Carroll was able to obtain accurate information, research and stories on the Rialto study and body cameras themselves. “In the first year after the cameras’ introduction, the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%.” stated Christopher Mims. Christopher Mims writes for the Wall Street Journal, he specializes in news involving technology and sciences. These results show undeniable evidence that these body cameras have significant impact on towns and cities. If the amount of unnecessary violence used is decreased, the amount of lives lost are decreased. Every police officer in the United States should be outfitted with a body camera – this is not just my opinion, but a growing cause. On the We The People website, the official petition page connected to whitehouse.gov, there is a petition called the Mike Brown Law, which states,“Create a bill, sign into law, and set aside funds to require all state,county, and local police, to wear a camera”. This petition has over 150,000 signatures, and the number keeps growing. This petition was made after the incident in which an unarmed black teenager, Mike Brown, was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014. There was no video evidence to show what actually occurred leading up to the shooting, Mims stated.
This plan, like all plans, is not foolproof. Cameras will not fix human decision-making. One issue is the money involved to get this idea instated. President Obama has requested $263 million dollars to get this program started states Mims. According to Christopher Mims, most cameras run between $300-$400 dollars a camera. If the department is very large the cost will tally up. Another cost issue is how the data will be stored. This will involve people to be hired and secure servers to be set up. The servers must be secure so none of the footage releases to the public. Several police departments throughout the states of Washington and Oregon want to follow in the footsteps of Rialto. A major obstacle is the funding involved. Many departments have requested funding but have not yet received it. According to Brent Weisberg, a reporter for KOIN 6 in Oregon, who specializes in law enforcement and criminal court news states, The police departments in Washington and Oregon can not do anything except wait for the money. This issue of privacy in certain cases is questionable. Chief of Police Bob Richardson, in Battle Ground, Washington, is concerned about privacy of victims. He wants to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and those suffering from mental health crisis and drug and alcohol addiction. He is also worried about the implications that could come if a witness’ identity is revealed to the public. Another issue, even if the cameras are in departments, some officers will not wear them or record encounters with the camera they are outfitted with. Mims stated it best, “Of course, sometimes events happen that accelerate the adoption of a technological fix. The tragic irony is that police in Ferguson have a stock of body-worn cameras, but have yet to deploy them to officers.” In some events, video evidence just is not enough. In the case of Eric Garner, according to NBC New York, a medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide, the officer who harmed him was not charged. There is a video in which you can see Eric Garner being put in an illegal choke hold by a police officer. You can hear Garner say, “I can’t breathe”. The officers ignored this and Eric Garner died that day.
The benefits of body cameras heavily outweighs the obstacles to implement the cameras. There is not a money issue at all. Body cameras will actually save money once they are implemented. Lauren C. Williams a technology and cyber security reporter from thinkprogress.org states, “ The only obstacle preventing every police department from making cameras standard is cost — $300 to $400 per unit.” She is only looking at the individual cost and not how much money they will save. According to Mims, “In the U.S., in some instances they have shortened the amount of time required to investigate a shooting by police from two-to-three months to two-to-three days.” If we can limit the amount of time in court it will cut costs. Not using hard video evidence from body cameras in court cases, is like trying to run marathon with large weights around your ankles, Yes, you will finish the marathon, but it is at the cost of more energy and more time. You could just as easily remove those weights and cruise to the end. Similar to how using these cameras will speed up the lengthy and strenuous process that is a court case. Less money will have to be paid to all the lawyers, and judges involved. It saves taxpayers money. Jaeah Lee writes for Mother Jones, her writings have been published in The Guardian, Huffington Post, The Atlantic and more credible periodicals . Lee found research in which shows how much money a police department paid in settlements due to lethal force being used, “Between 2006 and 2011, New York City paid out $348 million in settlements or judgments in cases pertaining to civil rights violations by police, according to a UCLA study published in June 2014.” Since studies have shown that due to cameras, less force is used by the police officer, these body cameras will save millions. Another economic benefit that outweighs the cost is competition between businesses, according to Mims, “Fortunately, fierce competition between the two most prominent vendors of the devices, Vievu LLC and Taser International Inc., which makes the cameras used by Rialto police, has driven the price of individual cameras down”. This makes the cameras much more affordable for departments around the nation. Maxine Bernstein from The Oregonian, covers law enforcement and the Portland police department says jobs will be created with the introduction of body cameras. “The bureau is seeking another three technical support positions – a digital media program manager, a records specialist and an information technology specialist — for a police body camera program.” These jobs will most likely be long term she says. If every department has to hire analysts, specialist, and other tech related jobs, you are looking at millions of jobs being created. Justin Hansford a law professor at the Saint Louis University School of Law, who writes for The Washington Post, claims that body cameras simply do not change officers behavior, “The officers who forcibly pushed Garner’s body into the ground knew a witness was recording the incident, and at least one of them spoke to the videographer. Hansford is overgeneralizing this one specific instance. Tony Farrar a former officer knows what it’s like to have this camera, “When you know you’re being watched you behave a little better. That’s just human nature,” said Farrar. “As an officer you act a bit more professional, follow the rules a bit better.”. Farrar has personal experience with this technology. Also, the numbers do not lie, look at the significant drops in violence and complaints in Rialto in only one short year. Mims states that the cops in Ferguson had cameras, but did not use them on purpose. This is generalizing that cops do not like being watch, that is simply not true.Carroll interviewed several officers one being Sgt. Josh Lindsay. Most officers, like Sgt. Josh Lindsay, want their side of the story shown. Lindsay said “Now you can see the [suspect] punching the officer twice in the face before he hits him with his baton.” Body cameras can show decisive decisions for both citizens and polices officers. Those actions that they made, whether they are good or bad, are still captured. The evidences shows an event from a very objective perspective, which can be used to prosecute whoever violate a law. Whether it is an officer or a citizen. Today, there is high tension between a citizen and the police, because of instances where all the evidence is not shown. Officers like Sgt. Lindsay, and many other police departments across the nation, want everyone to see what happened, not just a small video where an officer looks bad.Why would an officer not want to be able to clear their name of an allegation? Officers do, in fact, want these cameras to start to rebuild the lost relationship between citizens and police caused by the lack of evidence and accountability. They are willing to use these cameras, not the opposite.
If you are willing to help this cause and make a change, sign the Mike Brown Law petition, on petitions.whitehouse.gov . It takes no more than a minute. We all use the internet why not make a change a significant social change on the internet as well? If you want to feel safe and be safe support this cause and sign the petition above. If you support this cause, our cities are safer, our officers are accountable, our areas of tension are relaxed, our own life is safe.