Body Worn Cameras: Yes or No?

The ever-progressing technology of our society is generally slow to arrive when it comes to use in civilian law enforcement and emergency service markets.

Body CamDuring the early 1990s, an active duty command level officer in a state law enforcement agency was teaching a law enforcement procedures and ethics class for a prominent state university’s college of law enforcement. This officer was one of the top three executives in this state agency and asked the question, “What is an example of where the agency has been very slow or even delayed in making change?”

To which one class participant answered, “When the agency made the transition from a .357 revolver to a semi-automatic pistol.”

“Exactly,” replied the professor, “When we switched from the .357 magnum to the 10mm.” A few months later that same 10mm pistol had to be replaced throughout this agency and countless others because of the deficiency on the pistol’s structure made the usage potentially unsafe. Maybe the change was not slow enough.

The argument could be made, and often is, why go for the latest and greatest when we have the tested and true. This example and perhaps hundreds of others over the decades could be presented to supplement the argument. However, when that agency had to switch pistols again, it did not switch back to .357 revolver; they chose a different semi-automatic pistol.

Change seems sometimes to be a vulgar word in many establishments and especially to government entities. However, change is not always a negative. The changes that have occurred many times are considered negative because they are made in response to a negative or tragic incident.

For example, how many years went by and how many officers died in the line of duty because of unworn body armor before it became a required practice and piece of equipment for law enforcement? It took even longer for those serving on the battlefields of the United States Military to receive body armor as standard issue equipment. It was too heavy and cumbersome or too hot and too expensive, but try telling that to a mourning family.

The examples could fill weeks worth of writings from semi-automatic pistols and body armor to on-board computers and dash cameras, but the hot topic today is the body worn cameras. Should the body worn camera become standard issue for American law enforcement officers?

As with all things there are pros and cons for the use of the cameras, but the limited available statistics, because of the small amount of time and small numbers of departments that have been using the technology, reflect some positives for law enforcement officers and the public they serve.

The use of the body worn cameras has shown a drop of 60% in the use of force by the Rialto, California Police Department and an 88% drop in citizen complaints against their officers in just one year. Quite significant on any statistical chart!

My take though would be to say, what would the responses to the Ferguson, Missouri and New York City debacles be had there been body worn cameras involved? Would there have been police officers prosecuted or exonerated by all?

Will the cameras keep the cops honest? Will it make the bad guys behave better? Honest cops will always be honest cops no matter who is watching. Bad guys will be bad guys with or without cameras.

However, the greatest tragic example of the body worn camera, recently, involved Flagstaff, Arizona Police Officer Tyler Jacob Stewart. Officer Stewart responded to a domestic dispute wearing his department issued body cam. The video has been released in media outlets around the nation, but appears to show the officer doing his job. Officer Stewart lost the struggle and was murdered in the line of duty. I do not want to ever see that video or another similar video ever again. The evidence that was made available, from the body cam video, to answer almost otherwise unanswerable questions was invaluable. The shooter took his life, but would have certainly been convicted on the video evidence alone had it been necessary.

Body Worn Cameras? Yes please.

Rest in Peace Officer Tyler Jacob Stewart. End of Watch 12-27-2014

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Bergen Mease

Author, baseball fan, Florida State University Seminoles sports nut, Gulf Coast native usually somewhere with his feet in the sand.

Those are just a few things that could generally describe Bergen Mease. However, more importantly he is a Believer in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. He is a patriot of the United States of America that comes from a US Navy family. He lives with his wife and children, whom they are raising with conservative leanings. He served as a law enforcement officer and more recently as a law enforcement and emergency services Chaplain. His mission is to write about topics that will make everyone think about how they treat others both personally and professionally.
Bergen Mease

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1 thought on “Body Worn Cameras: Yes or No?

  1. If you are doing your job the way you should be what does it matter if you have a body cam on or not.
    I remember the resistance to the in car cam but if you are doing what you should I found the cam was a great tool in showing just what #$$%#@ the general public truly are and if you use the cam as a tool to make your job easier it is an advantage.
    I bought my own body cam several years when we got a new, just as corrupt sheriff as our old one and began using it to record our own admin holy ones doing their usual crooked things and violations of policy that they were busily enforcing upon all of the deputies that did not support the new guy. The footage I got with my cam helped greatly when it became my time to retire as the holy ones began to try to railroad me with drummed up violations of policy until i dropped the hint of the various violations of dept. policy, FLSA, and federal policy they had and still were committing and had documented it for future use.

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