What do Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) mean for an Officer?

What are body worn cameras?

Body worn cameras (BWCs) are small devices that record police interactions with the community. The devices are activated with the push of a button and document statements, behavior, and other evidence. Law enforcement uses video and audio recordings from these devices to show that they are being transparent with the community. These recordings can deter aggressive and illegal behavior by the public or law enforcement.

Why use BWCs?

Partly due to the considerable negative publicity police have received lately in places like Baltimore, Md., Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., BWCs are becoming more popular with police departments nationwide. Many people don’t realize BWCs are meant to protect officers and the community. An officer has no access to the camera’s inner workings and an administrator typically downloads footage when the officer is off duty. In court, footage can be used to show what actually happened as opposed to having “he said/she said” arguments. There have been documented cases where a defense attorney has seen the footage and advised her client to plead guilty to the charges.

What does a BWC look like and how does it connect to your body?

One of the leading BWCs is the Axon 2 Body Worn Camera. The Axon Body 2 has “RAPIDLOCK MOUNTS: Versatile mounts keep the camera steady during tough situations” according to the Axon Body 2 product brochure. The Axon Body 2 is shown below:
Body Worn Cameras

The Keyser Police Department in Cumberland, Md. uses the Axon Body 2 BWC, according to the Cumberland Times.

Policy

While BWCs are great tools, certain policies must be created and followed to ensure proper and consistent use by law enforcement. Such policies also give communities a sense that law enforcement is protecting and serving them. Certain civil rights groups have worked with law enforcement to create initial policy guidelines, recognizing this is new technology and policies likely will need adjustments as use of the devices increases.

One group, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, has worked with local communities and federal agencies to come up with the following policy guidelines for law enforcement agencies:

  • Develop camera policies in public with the input of civil rights advocates and the local community.
  • Commit to a set of narrow and well-defined purposes for which cameras and their footage may be used.
  • Specify clear operational policies for recording, retention, and access, and enforce strict disciplinary protocols for policy violations.
  • Make footage available to promote accountability with appropriate privacy safeguards in place.
  • Preserve the independent evidentiary value of officer reports by prohibiting officers from viewing footage before filing their reports.
  • Following these guidelines ensures transparency. Civil liberties are in our nation’s DNA, and transparency ensures law enforcement and communities gain mutual respect.

    Rausch Law, LLC understands the complexities involved with navigating the world of Body Worn Cameras. If you are law enforcement and have questions about how Body Worn Cameras can better assist you in the event of an excessive force complaint, contact Rausch Law, LLC at 443-280-9167.

    Do you have an interesting BWC story? We’d love to hear from you!