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Body-worn cameras could protect constitutional rights

Ronald Bailey wrote an article recently published in the journal Reason suggesting that requiring police officers to wear video cameras on their bodies would likely result not only in reduced complaints against police, but fewer violations of constitutional rights and better police work. Requiring police to wear body cameras would not only protect against police misconduct, but would protect officers against false accusations.

The suggestion is supported by research. According to a study from 2004 up to one-third of police searches in one city were unconstitutional, and most of those violations were not brought to the attention of a court. Police cameras could address the issue by improving police behavior and tracking any violations that do occur.

As Bailey points, though, making police cameras effective would require certain policies to be put in place for protection of privacy, ensuring police compliance, and preventing unauthorized disclosure.

Already, dashboard cameras are in widespread use, but body-worn cameras would take things to a new level. Body-worn cameras may not come into widespread use anytime soon, but the suggestion does highlight the importance of constitutional rights in connection with policing. Violations of constitutional rights can be serious enough that they can basically destroy a criminal case, or give an individual the right to sue an officer.

In the former situation, for instance, an illegal search for drugs can give a criminal defendant the right to have evidence of drugs excluded from trial. This can seriously weaken prosecution’s case, and is something criminal defense attorneys keep their eyes open for as a possibility whenever there is a question as to the legality of a search.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “Watched cops are polite cops,” Ronald Bailey, November 27, 2013. 

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