There have been numerous high-profile cases in recent years in which suspects have been seriously injured or killed during interactions with police officers. And when these events are covered in the news or discussed in court, the officer's version of events often conflicts with statements given by witnesses and bystanders. And when there are conflicting accounts, officers are generally given the benefit of the doubt.
But many deadly interactions are now being captured in cellphone videos, and that has made it easier for defendants and bystanders to challenge the accounts given by police. Because of this, many police departments are now being asked to implement the use of body-worn cameras on officers. About 1,000 officers in New York City will begin wearing body cameras this year, with more to come later on.
Based on statements made by police union representatives, law enforcement agencies are not supportive of this change. The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association recently negotiated a small pay increase for officers who will be required to wear body cameras, claiming that the devices are an "encumbrance," and that they "present serious concerns for the rights and safety of both police officers and the public."
To be sure, there are some legitimate privacy concerns for members of the general public. There are still many questions about how the footage will be stored and protected as well as who will be able to access it.
But for officers, the concerns may be overblown. Many commentators believe that if police officers are acting ethically and following protocol, they should not be concerned about accommodating an extra measure of transparency. In notable pilot programs to test their effectiveness, body cameras have reduced both the number of police shootings and the number of complaints lodged against police officers.
If you are currently facing criminal charges, please don't assume that your side of the story will be heard and respected. You may wish to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and advocate for your best interests at all times.