It doesn’t take long flipping through the news channels these days to come across the hot button issue of police brutality and misconduct. It is not a new issue, rather it is one with deep racial and sociopolitical roots that has been brewing for quite some time and is now starting to bubble to the surface. As individuals and communities come together to protest the treatment of innocent civilians and suspected criminals who never got to see their day in court, lawmakers and leaders struggle to come up with solutions. One major component of cracking down on and finding out what is really going on is the introduction and the more and more widespread use of police body cams as well as police dash camera systems.
How law enforcement dash cameras can play an important role
Police dash cams have been in use for some time, but it is now becoming more important for a few different reasons. First, a police dash camera can be helpful in identifying and verifying license plate numbers and the type of car a potential criminal is driving, particularly if that person decides to lead law enforcement on a bit of a chase. These cameras can also verify that an officer has followed protocol in any given situation, and determine who is at fault when something does not go according to plan. Having this visual proof confirms the guilt or innocence of the officers or suspects when it otherwise comes down to one’s word against the other.
The benefits of police cameras are already evident
Over the course of three years, the total number of cameras used in police cars went up from 3,400 to 17,500. While police dash cameras definitely have their use, about 77% of police officers have reported a preference of using body cameras over dash cams, as the personal body cameras have proven to them to be more effective. One report by the Police Department for the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee stated that in San Diego, there were a number of significantly noticeable improvements after the city police department began to use body cameras. General complaints against police officers dropped by 40.5%. Pepper spray use was reduced by 30.5%. Police officers employing the use of personal body force lowered by 46.5%. Those are significant numbers.
Protecting citizens and officers alike
With everything going on in the media currently, law enforcement is often painted in a very negative light. And when police officers react in a manner that is unbefitting of their position, or really in a way that no human being should treat another, that negative light is necessary, in order to attempt to bring about the change that is so desperately needed. But unfortunately there are also individuals who would use those very real and very serious issues to their advantage, even if they are simply trying to drive the point home. People who falsely claim that they witnessed or were a victim of police brutality or excessive force are just as bad as the officers who are actually guilty of such acts. One survey was conducted among 785 professionals in local, state, and federal law enforcement fields, and the results showed that over 85% of those who participated in the survey believed that the presence of body cameras on officers reduces false claims of misconduct by police, and also lowers the chances of legal action taken against the agency.
The problems facing police officers and civilians are very real. And to fix these problems there are very deep, painful, and complex issues that must be addressed. There needs to be a major overhaul of the entire political, governmental, and law enforcement systems in order to truly make sure everyone has a chance at a safe and happy life, coexisting with each other. Having police officers and other law enforcement officials wearing body cameras is just one small step. It is an important step, but still just one of many that needs to be taken toward real healing across the country.