News / Science & Technology

Ferguson Shooting Sparks Interest in Body Cameras

FILE - A Los Angeles police officer is shown wearing an on-body camera during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles. Thousands of police agencies have equipped officers with cameras to wear with their uniforms.
FILE - A Los Angeles police officer is shown wearing an on-body camera during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles. Thousands of police agencies have equipped officers with cameras to wear with their uniforms.

Related Articles

Video Conflicting Accounts Cloud Investigation Into Fatal Police Shooting

A grand jury in Missouri will hear evidence in fatal police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson

Photogallery Missouri Governor Orders National Guard Withdrawal From Ferguson

Jay Nixon says situation 'greatly improved with fewer incidents of outside instigators interfering with peaceful protestors, and fewer acts of violence'

Pentagon Program Under Scrutiny Amid Ferguson Crisis

Excess Property Program is a Congressionally-mandated system which allows donations of surplus military equipment, weapons to law enforcement agencies

Photogallery US Racial Tensions Story Ripples Abroad

For countries whose rights records Washington has criticized, events in Ferguson, Missouri offer an opportunity to even the score

The “he said, she said” controversy over the shooting of Michael Brown tearing the city of Ferguson, Missouri, apart is sparking a wave of interest in a technology that has yet to be used widely in the United States.

Body cameras mounted on a police officer’s torso or glasses have been getting a lot of attention in the wake of Ferguson, and rightly so.

In a definitive report prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier this year, body cameras were shown to reduce the incidents of the police using force by 60 percent in the city of Rialto, California. Complaints against police officers there also plummeted 88 percent.

“Given what has been going on in Ferguson, it has become clear that police departments would benefit tremendously by having that equipment because of the evidence,” said Michael White, a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and the author of the DOJ report.

“You’re hearing two very different stories about what happened,” he said. “We simply don’t know which version is accurate, and as a result, everyone is left to speculate.”

White said that a body camera could have gathered conclusive evidence in the Brown shooting.

Taser, a leading manufacturer of body cameras, began experimenting with cameras in 2006, according to Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for the company.

“What we found was they were tremendous at taking the ‘he said, she said’ element out of incidents,” he said.

Taser makes both a body-mounted camera as well as one that can be mounted on sunglasses.

The Taser cameras are always recording, but the video footage is regularly overwritten, since the cameras have limited storage capacity.  In order for it to record and save an incident, the officers must press a button. At that time the camera stores video data from the prior 30 seconds and then begins to record both video and audio of the event.

Tuttle said every frame of saved video is fingerprinted and cannot be altered or changed. The video can be redacted, but it would show as having been redacted.

Despite what appears to be huge advantages to using the cameras, less than a quarter of U.S. police departments are using them, according to White.

“As recently as three years ago, virtually no one was talking about this technology,” he said, adding that while there are 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, the two main suppliers of the cameras say their cameras are being used in just over 4,000 agencies combined.

White said that in the U.K., body cameras have been used since 2005.

He said he expects a rapid surge in U.S. police departments using cameras as a result of the Ferguson shooting. He expects the pattern will follow the uptake of Tasers and dashboard-mounted cameras, which faced initial resistance, but are now widely used.

The momentum was already building before Ferguson.

Last August, when Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled that the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program was unconstitutional, she ordered the department to invest in body cameras because it would "alleviate some of the mistrust that has developed between the police and the black and Hispanic communities" and be "helpful to members of the NYPD who are wrongly accused of inappropriate behavior."

Rialto Chief of Police William A. Farrar agreed and was quoted in White’s report.

“When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better,” he said. “And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”

Still White urges caution, saying police departments can “get into a lot of trouble without the leadership thinking about the issues raised.”

“Buying the hardware is the easy part,” he said.

He also said the “research is mixed” on the “civilizing effect.”

Other concerns raised in White’s report include privacy for both citizens and police officers.  And while the price of the cameras has dropped dramatically in the past several years -- a camera can cost as little as $350 -- police departments would have to spend a lot of money on training and policy development.

Some of the costs could be offset by guilty pleas due to video evidence and police departments not having to investigate frivolous complaints against officers. They are required to investigate all complaints, White said, but with irrefutable video evidence, people who manufacture complaints may be dissuaded from doing so.

And privacy concerns may already be lessening.

The American Civil Liberties Union, an individual rights watchdog, called the cameras a “win for all,” if properly implemented.

Police departments seem to be heeding White’s advice to take implementation slowly and deliberately.

“There are many benefits for the community and for the department in the use of [body cameras],” said a spokesman for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which is currently studying the effectiveness of body cameras.

“However, as with any new technology, careful thought must be given to all aspects of its procurement and use," he said. "Issues with policy, procedures, legal aspects, cost, management and sustainment are but a few of the considerations the department must examine as it moves forward with the program.”

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: davis from: NY,NY
August 23, 2014 12:44 PM
About the Body Cameras, Special Forces & Navy Seals use them even though they are most elite of all Ground Forces to capture or kill a target (Terrorist. etc), the Police Force in America should not be exempted from using it. Body Camera for all Security Forces, Police Forces, etc this can help in a lot of ways not hurt. Then again with all the shootings of a innocent Black Teenager there are always two sides of the story, if the Police Officer had a Body Camera on him we would see who was at fault and not second guessing the Crime Scene. It should mandated by Law...if you are Police Officer in any City or Town it is mandatory for them to wear it. If they try to delete what happen they should suspended with out pay. Also anything they deleted can be recovered by the FBI and a simple software called "Recuva".

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs