Obama’s Decision Will Affect Rights, Safety, and Privacy of All Americans
Technology is important to us all and can even save lives. But could a life have been saved if Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson had been wearing the latest micro body camera on that fateful night in August?
I guess we will never know, but the fact that this equipment is available makes you wish it would have been implemented. It also begs the question of the benefits of technology and law enforcement. What are the benefits and drawbacks to this new and exciting technology?
It seems the recent unrest in Ferguson, as well as countrywide scandals, have sped up the process of getting police outfitted with this technology. Monday the White House said Obama will look to distribute funds to furnish police officers with body cams throughout the nation.
Obama, who met with civil rights activists, elected officials and law enforcement Monday, will surely be discussing the issues of mistrust and ways to improve tension between the public and police.
Technology May Play a Key Role in Establishing Trust and Accountability
According to the White house, the President is projecting a little over a quarter billion dollar investment to be dispersed over three years. The end result should be over fifty thousand cameras up and running by 2018.
The hope is that the transparency will help to decrease incidents of excessive force and greatly decrease complaints against police. In departments already using cameras this has proven to be the case.
But, as with all technology used in law enforcement, we have to consider the effects on the public as well as those who are using it to serve and protect.
The issue is complex, but the key to responsible implementation of the technology will be the way usage is regulated. Currently law enforcement agencies are not required to have an actual policy on how cameras should be run, and many don’t. This leaves a lot to chance.
Can the officer edit the video to make it look the way he wants it to? Edited footage can be extremely damaging to an innocent person.
Another potential issue occurs if cameras run constantly.
We seem to forget that police officers are just people at work. Is it okay for all of their private conversations during down time or with fellow coworkers to be documented and possibly used against them later?
We also have public privacy to consider. Should a police officer really be filming the inside of your house when you call them because someone stole your bike? People have a tendency to react to stressful situations in different ways, usually in an unflattering manner. Definitely not the type of video anyone would want viewed by others.
There is still a long way to go as far as policy on these cameras, but with the public screaming out for action and the president’s bold initiative, we may be in for a lot of growing pains. However, the general view is positive.
The most current results have shown that when the cameras are implemented, there is a sharp reduction in the use of force and public complaints. In the first year Rialto, California police began wearing cameras the use of force by officers declined 60 percent, and citizen complaints against police fell 88 percent.
Ferguson police have already outfitted their officers with cameras. We can only hope, as I know the president does, that this initiative can prevent another city from being a day late and a dollar short.