In response to police brutality, police misconduct, and the like, a tool dubbed the ‘body camera’ will be equipped onto police officers in order to catch any sort of violent acts. While this is a seemingly good idea, the main problem is: Who would monitor and control the video feed that the camera displays?
If the police are allowed to be able to control their own camera, then negative acts could be cut out from recordings, or police could stop recording upon performing a negative act. Currently, the cameras are monitored by the law enforcement agencies that have developed the cameras.
Alex Vitale, director of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College, declares that the majority of police departments introduce the usage of these cameras due to its ability to serve as a tool for accountability. “If it’s really a tool for accountability, perhaps the footage should be under the control of an independent entity,” Vitale said. Recently, a steadily increasing number of people begin to believe that these cameras are used unrighteously, and that the uses veer towards the police’s needs instead of the people’s.
Additionally, Lee Merit recently shared an experience with NPR that explains one of the reasons why some people seem to believe that the usage of these cameras are bias.
His clients were facing potential charges of resisting arrest. When Merit asked to view a portion of the body camera footage, the Fort Worth Police Dept. kept Merit away from any footage at first. “They denied [our request], stating it was dangerous to release the video because it was pertaining to minors, and that there was an ongoing investigation that they didn’t want interrupted.” Regardless, the footage was leaked, Merit spread it across the media, and all charges against his clients were dropped.
On the flip side, some people, like the Nashville Council, see these cameras a positive creation. The Nashville Council decided to purchase over 150 body cameras, to be used by Metro Nashville Police Department’s flex team. The main reason for this is the shooting of Jocques Clemmons, a 31-year-old Black male, by a White police officer. Surveillance cameras have proved to be worthless, but the Council and Police Department believe that had a body camera been in use, this case could have been long finished.
And the final big, burning question is, what are these cameras primarily used for, and how will they be used in the future? Since the release of these cameras, the main usage seems to be law enforcement; in depth, they are used to record evidence to declare an arrest and clearly find suspects. If events like these continue to repeat, the public may never see eye-to-eye with the police and their body camera usage.