Earlier this week, after an inquest jury essentially vindicated London police officers in the 2011 killing of 29 year old Mark Duggan, authorities announced that, henceforth, some number of London’s 2,300 firearms-carrying officers would begin wearing vest-mounted video cameras. And, as much as I consider myself a privacy advocate, and despise our ever expanding surveillance culture, I think it’s a great idea that we need to pursue more aggressively in the United States. Those individuals among us who have it within their power to dispense lethal force, should, in my opinion, be aggressively monitored. And, in instances where complete audio or video documentation of arrests does not exist, prosecutions should be tossed out. It’s the only way, I think, for us to counter the increasing militarization of our local police forces and the growing tendency to employ excessive force in instances where it’s not warranted.
Here, with more about the London announcement, is a clip from ABC News:
…Speaking late Wednesday, Metropolitan (London) Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said the camera experiment was an attempt to improve transparency and restore public trust in the force. It would allow jurors and judges literally to see events from an officer’s perspective.
“We want to see if this is an effective way to record evidence and ensure public confidence,” he said in a statement.
A police spokesman said Thursday that armed officers will begin wearing recording devices April 1. The number of officers set to wear the cameras has yet to be decided.
Police forces across the world have been experimenting with portable cameras as tools for crime-fighting and police accountability. Cameras mounted on glasses, helmets, or vests are being trialed or distributed across the U.S. Several police forces across the U.K. are also trying out the devices…
According to recently published studies, vest-mounted cameras actually work. They not only improve accountability, and increase public confidence, but their use results in decreased violence. Minneapolis City Councilman Gary Schiff, when recently announcing a test in his city, noted the following. “We see, in cities like Rialto, California, an 88% drop in complaints against officers who are wearing cameras, and a 60% drop in use of force,” he said. “That means less opportunity that something could go wrong.” (In Minneapolis, they’ll be spending $400,000 to outfit two thirds of their police force with body cameras in 2014.)
Here, with more on the results in Rialto, California, where body cameras have been extensively tested, is an excerpt from an article published by the Police Foundation.
Police Foundation Executive Fellow, Chief Tony Farrar, recently completed an extensive yearlong study to evaluate the effect of body-worn video cameras on police use-of-force. This randomized controlled trail represents the first experimental evaluation of body-worn video cameras used in police patrol practices. Cameras were deployed to all patrol officers in the Rialto (CA) Police Department. Every police patrol shift during the 12-month period was assigned to experimental or control conditions.
Wearing cameras was associated with dramatic reductions in use-of-force and complaints against officers. The authors conclude: “The findings suggest more than a 50% reduction in the total number of incidents of use-of-force compared to control-conditions, and nearly ten times more citizens’ complaints in the 12-months prior to the experiment.”
We applaud Chief Farrar for his commitment to conducting rigorous scientific research on a technology initiative that has broad implications for the field of policing…
The full report, which was coauthored by Cambridge University’s Barak Ariel, can be found here.
NOTE: For those of you who don’t think there’s a need here in Ypsilanti, I’d remind you of the case of David Ware.