How Body-worn cameras help improve police-community relations

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Law enforcement agencies in the US are increasingly adopting body-worn cameras (BWCs) to improve police-community relations. In the aftermath of the violent protests across the country, triggered by the grand jury decisions in New York and Missouri that cleared police officers involved in the deaths of two unarmed black men, government has also stepped in with funding assistance, accelerating the procurement and usage of Body-worn cameras.

While the rising racial tensions and the spurt in the number of complaints against use of force by police can be considered as the main reasons for the implementation of Body-worn camera program, law enforcement agencies have been using advanced technologies like GPS applications, face recognition software, automated license plate readers and social media for curbing crimes and communicating with the public for more than a decade now.

Technology to enhance efficiency

According to a study by the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology (IoC), in 2012, use-of-force by officers wearing cameras fell by 59% and reports against officers dropped by 87% against the previous year. The findings were based on a 12-month experiment in Rialto, California on policing with BWCs.

Another research in 2013 by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), with support from the US Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), found that BWCs have significantly improved evidence procurement for investigations and court proceedings. The study also found that security, reliability, cost, and technical capacity were the primary reasons for selecting a particular method for storing Body-worn camera data.

These studies point towards the potential of BWCs to pave the way for a more transparent relationship between police and public. As BWCs will be recording each move by a law enforcement officer, the officer will be obliged to issue a warning of being filmed before taking any action against a person. At times, this warning alone will be sufficient to prevent a crime from occurring or curb violence due to psychological reasons. This transparency in encounters will also help bring down the possibility of misconduct on the part of police officers.

Transparency and efficiency

With Body-worn camera data in place, documenting evidence and using it for prosecution against erroneous officers will become easy and efficient. This will be an important achievement of the BWC program as the biggest concern among the civil liberty activists is that hardly any law enforcement officer gets convicted for unlawful use of force against people. Today, law enforcement officers are not penalized because it is difficult to prove the `unlawful use of force’ in a court of law.

In other words, BWCs will help to prevent and resolve complaints against police officers, bring in transparency and enhance performance and accountability of law enforcement agencies. The Body-worn camera program will also help establish and build trust between police and local communities as the recorded data makes it possible for agencies to monitor officer performance and identify larger structural problems so that correctional measures can be taken immediately.

Another advantage is that BWC data can work as a deterrent against people filing unfounded or wrongful complaints against police officers, thereby, helping agencies to save litigation expenditure.

Besides, BWCs make it easy for officers to document evidence in crimes that are difficult to prove like domestic violence as live films can offer reliable proof in the court. It can also come in handy while making arrests and conducting interrogations.

Data storage

Technology can play a pivotal role in crime investigation and enhancing police efficiency. But it is not easy for police departments to find the most suitable technologies for the crime problems faced by a particular jurisdiction. They need to account for the cost involved in procurement, adoption and training requirements associated with technologies. Besides, police departments have to ensure that they follow rules and systems prescribed by the existing law and that the technology complies with regulatory standards. BWC is not different.

To take advantage of the numerous benefits offered by BWC data, law enforcement agencies should have a reliable mechanism to store these large amounts of filmed data in a safer place at an affordable cost. In a year, video from each officer’s body camera can result in terabytes of stored data. In addition, these stored data should be easily accessible and retrievable so that they can be used for resolving complaints and prosecution.

Cloud technology can offer a possible solution to these problems. Law enforcement agencies can look at partnering with a third party service provider, who can offer them the right mix of affordable cloud storage and safety options for BWC data. More about cloud storage and data backup in the next post.

DoubleHorn, along with its strategic partners can help design and offer cost-effective and secure storage and back-up solutions for BWC data. Our offerings will not only help agencies meet the emerging technology standards but government and regulatory compliance requirements also. Based in Austin, Texas, our company is the best suitable partner for police departments looking for a single source for BWC data storage and management. Contact us at solutions@doublehorn.com (or) 855-61-VOICE (86423) for more information.

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