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Criminal Defense Blog


Will police body cameras someday become commonplace?

There are many instances when, during the course of their work, police have interactions with the public. In some instances, these interactions are on friendly terms, while in others they are much less so. Sometimes disputes arise over what occurred during a given police-citizen interaction.

A new type of technology that some police departments are starting to use is aimed at adding transparency to the situation when such disputes come up. The technology in question is the police body camera. Such cameras are small cameras that officers can wear on their person that can record video when officers are having interactions with citizens.

The experience of one police department that uses the cameras, the police department of Rialto, California, indicates that having police use such cameras could perhaps have positive benefits when it comes to the area of use of force. Reportedly, there was a 60 percent drop in officer use of force in the year after the department started having its officers use the cameras. There was also an 88 percent drop in citizen complaints against officers.

Some have speculated that use of such cameras by police departments could someday become commonplace.

If this were to occur, the area of use of force would likely not be the only one in which there would be effects. Another area in which there can be police-citizen interactions is the area of searches and seizures. Searches and seizures are common police practices in many types of investigations, including drug crime investigations. Sometimes, disputes arise over search/seizure-related interactions that could have impacts over whether the search/seizure is ultimately deemed valid. For example, in the case of an alleged consent search, disputes may arise over whether police actually asked for consent and if consent was actually freely given.

Currently, the main evidence that often is available when it comes to these types of disputes is the testimony of officers and the testimony of defendants. Thus, testimony can be the main evidentiary battleground in such disputes. One could see this changing however if police use of body cameras became widespread. It could cause the main evidentiary battleground in such disputes to shift to video evidence. This illustrates how the types of technology and procedures police use can have evidentiary impacts in cases.

What do you think of police body cameras? Should they be used on a widespread basis here in Illinois and nationwide?

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