Across the US, body-worn cameras have been adopted by police agencies to increase accountability and transparency. This nationwide implementation and recognition have occurred despite some resistance it has met from many police officer under many jurisdictions, this resistance has posed any threat to the implementation of the body camera. This resistance has been a major setback to implementing and also adherence to the policy accompanied. A police officer has pushed against the use of body-worn cameras in some places, they gave excuses for having their privacy being breached. Some other officers claimed the body-worn cameras have an adverse effect on the safety of officers.
The officers generally had the notion in mind that the purpose of the body-worn camera was to put an officer in trouble. On the contrary with the need of the police force, the police believed what they needed was; more police officers, new patrol cars and updated radios. They definitely weren’t interested, to them, it wasn’t the body-worn cameras that was going to reduce crime. In some areas where the body cameras are deeply opposed, the police department offers a financial stipend to those who wear the body-worn cameras. Some other areas like NYC have seen this and are close to adopting it also.
Despite police general concern on the use of body-worn cameras technology, it has been seen that citizens complain has dropped significantly. It has also reduced the police use of force when handling cases. While there have been cases of the good, the bad and the ugly; all referencing effects that body is worn cameras have had. There have been speculations that the variation in outcome has been an effect of police agencies’ acceptance of body cameras and their compliance with the usage policies. In the phoenix district, researchers found out that police officers only put on their body cameras 30% of the time when they required to activate it. In Anaheim (CA) researchers reported low usage of the body-worn cameras, but very high compliance with the policies guiding its usage. It was also confirmed that after the first year of implementation, the very high rate of 85% activation, while on field declines to about 65%. While this is happening in some places, it also to be noted that the New Orleans police department has maintained a very high camera usage rate of 97-99%, and this hasn’t dwindled from its adoption. It should also be noted that there is high federal watch eye on New Orleans, this makes the policy for usage quite strict and rigid. A study showed the percentages of event where body worn cameras were activated, they are:
- Domestic violence incidence- 47%
- Incidents involving violent offenses-39%
- Incidents involving property crime-26.5%
- Traffic offenses-6.5%
Wearing a body camera drastically decreases the rate of a complaint by a great amount, also it increases compliance with the law of a wearing officer. Just as we have talked about earlier, there is full compliance with the agency’s policy when an officer is wearing a body camera.
There is always a difference in the behavior of officers who wear body-worn cameras when compared to those who don’t. Officers who volunteer to wear the body cameras are more likely to be in compliance with the Body-worn camera policies, change their behavior to be more positively accepted. They are also seen to exhibit peculiar behavior and to have some attitudinal traits. In a research carried out in Arizona where out of 50 officers, 25 volunteered to wear the body camera while the rest of them were mandated to. There was a report that the officers who volunteered were 4 times more likely to report that the body cameras were helpful in their duties, twice likely to provide a citation, 30% more likely to arrest a criminal and have that 20% possibility chance of activating their Body camera as against those who were mandated to wear it. It’s almost as though they were forced to do it so they don’t respect it and neither do they make good judicious use of it. These very important findings have made it expressly possible to understand the officers’ resistance to the body camera, it also helps to understand the angle they reason from. There is also the clear cut definition of the policies and the impact of the body-worn cameras on police behavior.
Some research has shown that many officers don’t feel that the body-worn cameras would have any negative effect on their jobs. They ended up being in full support of its adoption. Goetschel and pera in 2017 examined the difference in attitudes between Pittsburg officers who embraced the use of the body-worn cameras, the officers believed that it would decrease the complaints from the citizens and also boost the image of the police force. As for those who didn’t accept the implementation of the body camera, they believed that the implementation would definitely erode the trust, between the citizens in that community and the police. This finding made it really obvious that officers differ in view simply because when taking into consideration, the strength and weakness of the body-worn camera will definitely summon the support and opposition of their adoption.
Some other findings also looked at a community that indicated that officers in an organization where justice was more receptive towards the body-worn camera would be internally just. They are believed to have more trust in their agency in using recordings from the body cameras, to evaluate their officers, and to also address citizens’ problems in a just way.
In the present day, body-worn cameras have become a response to external pressure to increase accountability and responsibility of the force. A lot of factors overall affects the perception of the body-worn camera in recent times. Beyond rejection and acceptance, it’s been seen as an innovative technology that keeps growing and is here to stay. It’s just best the officers see it as an aid to their job and not and hindrance, they need to put into full consideration how much the citizens trust them and also how much more they can make them love them.