Providing More Accountability for Officers and Community by using bodycams

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The body cam, a short version of body camera, is normally a body-worn surveillance device clipped to the top half of the police uniforms to capture arrests, chases, traffic accidents, searches of someone’s house, risks, summonses, crime scenes and general police work.
In fact, over the years, bodycams have been a major requirement in ensuring that law enforcement officers are true to their code of ethics and that both society and the police are kept responsible for their acts. The purpose of this research paper is to affirm the point as discussed above. Danny Shaw, (2016), ‘Police body cameras ‘cut complaints against officers’’, BBC UK journal, Home Affairs section. In this article, Danny Shaw, a Home Affairs correspondent, reviews the changes in police-public interaction after the introduction of police body cams. Danny’s article is solely founded on research conducted by the Cambridge University over 12 months in which almost 2,000 officers in Britain and US were monitored. The study, published in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior, indicated that there was a whopping 93% reduction in police complaints. This tremendous drop in claims was attributed to body cams in which Dr. Barak Ariel, the lead researcher based at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology was quoted saying, “Individual officers become more accountable, and modify their behavior accordingly, while the more disingenuous complaints from the public fall by the wayside once footage is likely to reveal them as frivolous.” The article not only focuses on the police force but also on the public who, “Once they become aware that they are being recorded, they know that everything they do is caught on tape, they will undoubtedly change their behavior because they don’t want to get into trouble.” This article is truly an eye opener which reasserts my earlier sentiments that the bodycam technology is a necessity and should become more of a routine to instill accountability and responsibility.

Michael E. Miller, (2015), ‘A body cam caught a Cleveland cop acting heroically. So why are cops afraid of them?’, The Washington Post. The news report by one Michael E. Miller is worth a read. In the report, a Cleveland police officer, through his body cam, is seeing negotiating with a sexagenarian after the suicidal man had shot the cop. The man pleads to be killed and noticing the cops were not falling for his little treachery; he raises his gun towards the other officers who fatally shoot him. The one-minute clip released on March 11, 2015, shows responsibility on the part of the police which days later, earned him an award “…in no small part because of the body cam footage.” There is no doubt that the bodycam ensured the police acted responsibly thus, boosting my point that body cams serve as the ‘moral cops’ to ensure accountability in the police force.

Ready, J.T. & Young, J.T.N. J Exp Criminol (2015), ‘Journal of Experimental Criminology,’ 11: 445. Doi: 10.1007/s11292-015-9237-8. On September 2015, Ready J.T et al., conducted a controlled experiment with the Mesa Police Department in Arizona to determine how bodycams influence police-public interactions for the report, ‘The Impact of On-officer Video Cameras on Police-Citizen Contacts: Findings from a Controlled Experiment in Mesa, AZ.’ The experiment was conducted on 100 patrol officers where half wore bodycams. The study showed that officers who wore bodycams were more cautious and greatly avoided code of conduct violations. However, officers who did not have body cams conducted more stop-and-frisks and made more arrests than those who did have body cams. The authors suggested that the core reason for fewer arrests made by bodycam-wearing cops was because “They thought more carefully about criminal policy and procedures. The researchers concluded that “Officers are more proactive with this technology without increasing their use of invasive strategies that may threaten the legitimacy of the organization.” The study was timely to tame the excessive force and reported harassments through the body cams. Again, the study stands to support the fact that body cameras are vital for accountability purposes.

Michael D. White, (2014), ‘Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras: Assessing the Evidence.’ The study from the U.S. Department of Justice authored by Michael D. White conducted studies on body cams and came up with mind blowing conclusions. In the report, it was noted that use of force by police dropped by a surprising 60% while public complaints fell by approximately 90%. The researcher noted that “The decline in complaints and use of force maybe tied to improved citizen, police behavior or a combination of both.” It was also noted that the public filed fewer complaints that they deemed trifling against officers wearing bodycams. From our thesis statement above, bodycams are meant to tame both the public and the police officers and make them accountable for their actions. The study mentioned above is vital to close down the widening rift between the police force and the public at large.

An unknown author, February (2017), ‘Uniforms for Cornell University Police Officers now have a new device – body cameras,’ Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. The news report by the author is also a supportive argument for my earlier sentiments. The author provides a crystal-clear benefit of police officers wearing bodycams while on duty. The writer argues that, since the body camera records everything an officer does, witness testimony, evidence, and other case details can later be used in law courts opining that, “The video will be stored in the department’s archive depending on the severity of the case.” Cornell Deputy Police Chief David Honan greatly supports wearing of body cameras arguing that it will ensure a trusting relationship between the citizens and the police. In addition to evidence collection, bodycams can be utilized to be useful teaching tools, Honan adds. It can be used to review clips and get suggestions on how an officer could have done something different. Indeed, bodycams is the technology that will bring back respect to the much-criticized police force by ensuring accountability on everybody’s part.

However, the bodycams have come with their disappointments. Jonathan Ison, January, (2017), ‘Chillicothe Police Stop Using bodycams, buying new ones,’ Chillicothe Gazette. Jonathan’s news report paints a clear picture of the failures of the bodycams. After less than a year since the Chillicothe Police Department implemented the body cameras, a little over $250,000 is to be spent on new ones. The one-year warranty ran out even before the implementation due to policies and lengthy procedures. Detective Pete Shaw who oversaw the cameras at the department cited two major issues failure of the internal recording system and rapid damage to the USB port thus; the bodycams couldn’t charge. As with anything machinery, bodycams are also susceptible to damage. This factor can only be avoided only if the bodycams are handled with great care.

Janet Vertesi, May (2015). ‘The Problem with Police Body Cameras’, Reuters. While Janet Vertesi, an Assistant Professional Sociology at Princeton University, where she is a Faculty Fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy, appreciates the impassive nature of the body cameras which proves vital for a court judgement, she argues that camera footage can be easily altered and edited to eliminate or add an object that was never present at the scene. This will alter a court judgment in an unfavorable way. In the era of video and photo editing, ignoring Janet’s opinion can prove to be fatal. The Government and IT-related institutions need to come up with an effective plan to avoid any interruptions on recorded footages.

References

An unknown author, February (2017). ‘Uniforms for Cornell University Police Officers now have a new device – body cameras,’ Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc.

Danny Shaw, (2016). ‘Police body cameras ‘cut complaints against officers’’, BBC UK journal.

Janet Vertesi, May (2015). ‘The Problem with Police Body Cameras’, Reuters.

Jonathan Ison, January, (2017). ‘Chillicothe Police Stop Using bodycams, buying new ones,’ Chillicothe Gazette.

Michael E. Miller, (2015). ‘A body cam caught a Cleveland cop acting heroically. So why are cops afraid of them?’, The Washington Post.

Michael D. White, (2014). ‘Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras: Assessing the Evidence’

Ready, J.T. & Young, J.T.N. J Exp Criminol (2015). ‘Journal of Experimental Criminology,’ 11: 445. Doi: 10.1007/s11292-015-9237-8.

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