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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs