On Tuesday, the Anaheim City Council took a historic step by voting to authorize the purchase and deployment of body cameras for police officers.
Kudos are due to the command staff and the line officers who have been involved with the vetting process and selection. I am sure a lot of work has gone into it.
I have to acknowledge and congratulate Anaheim PD for being the first large agency in Orange County to deploy body cameras. It is a demonstration of the department’s forward thinking and commitment to increasing trust and transparency with the community.
The benefits in evidence gathering and prosecution of cases will definitely have a significant impact as well. For those not familiar with police investigations, one of the most interesting things law enforcement comes across with witnesses is selective memory loss when court cases get to trial. Probably a little understood medical condition that has not been well researched.
Previous studies have shown a significant drop in use of force and personnel complaints in departments where body cameras have been deployed. Detractors will often focus on this statistic as evidence of widespread officer abuse. What is impossible to track is the data on how citizen behavior is impacted once they are aware they are being recorded. Seems the minute someone who is getting uppity with an officer is told they are being recorded behavior changes. Go figure.
A real plus for officers will be the ability to deal with citizen complaints almost in real time. While not an panacea, it is a real leap forward for internal affairs investigations.
More than one police watch commander has shared with me the smug satisfaction of sharing a video recorded contact with a citizen who was insistent on complaining about an officer’s behavior. I’m told the look on their faces is priceless when they get to sit down and watch it together. I’m sure its just another case of selective memory loss.
There will be problems of course. That is the case in every technology introduction in any industry. Muscle memory and technical skills will take time to learn and demonstrate. I remember as a rookie officer how long it took me to learn how to get out of police car without dropping my baton and getting strangled by my seat belt. Apples and oranges I know but still behavior that will have to be learned.
For those few officers out there who are stepping over the line or on it, all I can say is watch out! Every professional police officer I know despises rude, condescending and lying cops. The profession is only bettered when they are gone. If body cameras help make this happen we all benefit from it.
I know it’s only wishful thinking but wouldn’t it be great if amidst all the high profile officers behaving badly video recordings, we could actually share officers going above and beyond the call of duty. It would give police departments an opportunity to share the professionalism and humanity officers demonstrate everyday. Maybe Anaheim could be a first in that area as well.
Here are some links involving body cameras:
Arrest of carjacking suspect by Mesa, AZ PD using Taser camera
Interview with Ft. Smith, Arkansas officer after shooting. Actual video footage