Somebody’s watching: police body cameras and their effectiveness

Senior+Ian+Wilger+poses+with+a+camera+to+show+how+body+cameras+can+affect+situations+that+police+find+themselves+in.+

Christopher Cumberbatch

Senior Ian Wilger poses with a camera to show how body cameras can affect situations that police find themselves in.

Chris Cumberbatch, Photo Manager

Body Cameras or Worn Video (BWV) by police officers are made, according to the Police Foundation “to protect Police officers, to increase situational awareness of the officer, improving Community Relations, and Accountability.”

On October 12, police officer Aaron Dean fatally shot 28-year-old Tatiana Jefferson in her home with his body camera rolling the entire time. At no point did she ever make a move to attack or do anything to the police officer and was told roughly to “Put your hands in the air!” Jefferson was shot and killed. Incidents like these raise a question if body cameras actually work.

Statistics disagree, In 70 empirical studies done by researchers, they found that the average use of force an officer would use with a body camera was virtually the same as if they did not have a camera. The most notable difference the police officers experienced with BWVs was a dramatic decrease in citizen complaints. “There’s an incongruence between people’s expectations of cameras, police expectations of cameras and what they think they’re being used for,” said Cynthia Lum

Officers have expressed that they like body cameras because of the decrease in complaints in the areas that they have been used. They are also increasing in popularity, with police officers in New Jersey joining the trend and a new Iowa legislative bill pushing for body camera footage to become public. 

“I think that depending on the person it can make an actual difference,” sophomore Joe Kilstrom said. While his sentiment didn’t prove itself always true in the studies. There is an element of self-control that is increased in any situation when someone is being watched. 

Another sophomore Ryan Groennenboom had a different perspective. “We don’t need police body cameras because police brutality and violence don’t really happen,” he said. Body cameras were a large reason that Tanitia’s death was so publicized and if more people see what actually happens in police shootings it will be more clear of what actually happens. In the future, body cameras could create a healthier relationship between citizens and police officers and stop situations like Tatiana’s from happening.