Every cop with a gun should also be outfitted with a video camera


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.

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  1. Posted January 10, 2014 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    It’s worth noting that some have been fighting tooth and nail against implementation, like Michael Bloomberg. The following is from the New York Times.

    In more than a decade in office, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has often championed the use of cutting-edge technology to help solve age-old problems in New York.

    And when it comes to law enforcement, the mayor and his police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, have steadfastly supported the increasing use of video surveillance as one of the more effective means to combat crime.

    But when Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, of Federal District Court in Manhattan, ruled on Monday that the city’s stop-and-frisk program was unconstitutional and ordered that police officers in certain precincts strap tiny cameras to their uniforms to record their dealings with the public, Mr. Bloomberg’s response was immediate and emphatic.

    “It would be a nightmare,” he said. “We can’t have your cameraman follow you around and film things without people questioning whether they deliberately chose an angle, whether they got the whole picture in”…

  2. Ed F.
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    The facts don’t lie. The more you watch them, the less they behave like they’re on the streets of Falluah.

  3. Meta
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Less force. Less escalation. Less death.

    Here’s more on the Rialto experiment from Atlantic Cities:

    When officers in the experimental group (i.e., those who wore the cameras) decided to use force, they used it only in response to subjects who were “clearly seen to be physically-abusive or to [be] physically resisting arrest”; whereas officers in the control group (i.e., those without cameras) “resorted to use [of] force without being physical-threatened” 30 percent of the time. Those findings mirrored who instigated the use of force: Officers wearing cameras never instigated violence, but officers without cameras did so slightly less than 30 percent of the time.

    This sentence alone should be enough to bring this technology to every police force in America: “Officers wearing cameras never instigated violence.”

    Read more:

  4. idea man
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    How much do units cost, if a district wanted to test one them out? And how much data infrastructure storage would one need? I’m assuming that you would d have to keep all of the video for an extended period of time, but maybe that infrastructure already exists in most departments, as dashboard cameras are quite common these days. It does seem, however, that you’d need to add a staff position to log the film and manage the archive.

  5. Ren
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Has the Fraternal Order of Police weighed in? I have to imagine that they’d fight the hell out of this. No one wants to be watched doing his job.

  6. 55 Red
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Try to videotape a cop “doing his job”. I dare you.

  7. Demetrius
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I don’t generally agree that having cameras everywhere watching everyone all the time will make us any safer — but given the demanding and often fraught nature of police work, I think this is a good idea.

    As the article seems to indicate, it seems this would not only protect members of the public from potential police abuses, it would also protect police officers against unwarranted charges of abuse.

  8. Taco Farts
    Posted January 11, 2014 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Durham, NC: regarding the death of Jesus Huerta, who police say shot himself in the head after being frisked, handcuffed behind the back, and placed in the back of the police cruiser:

    “His [the officer’s] car had a video camera that was not on at the time of the incident, the report said.”

    Funny how often cameras are not functioning properly when there’s a questionable situation.

  9. Posted January 12, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink


  10. Posted January 12, 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    That’s why I said up front, Mr. Farts, that any case where officers can’t present unedited video of the event should be thrown out.

  11. Meta
    Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Even when there’s video, it may not change anything.

    Two former police officers in Orange County, CA were acquitted of murder Monday for beating a schizophrenic homeless man, Kelly Thomas, to death. After watching a harrowing video showing Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli, along with other officers, brutalizing Thomas, the jury spent less than a day deliberating to find the two men not guilty.

    In July 2011, the Fullerton cops came upon the 37-year-old schizophrenic taking some letters out of a trashcan and started beating him with a taser and a baton. The entire encounter was caught on a nearby security camera. The recording shows Ramos putting on a pair of latex gloves and telling Thomas, “See these fists? They’re getting ready to fuck you up.” As the officers hit him, Thomas begged for help and called out for his father. Cicinelli arrived later, tasing Thomas with a stun gun and then struck him across the face with it hard enough to break several bones. “I just probably smashed his face to hell,” he says on the video. Thomas went unconscious and died five days later. Ramos and Cicinelli were fired about a year after the assault.

    The defense attorneys argued Thomas had fought back, forcing the officers’ to subdue him, and that he died not of his injuries but of a heart condition exacerbated by long-term drug use. As a result of the not guilty verdict, the Orange County District Attorney has also decided not to pursue charges against a third officer, telling reporters, “I don’t intend to proceed with another trial when the two officers here were acquitted.”

    Read more:

  12. Pete Murdock by proxy
    Posted November 29, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink


    Chief DeGiusti has recommended the purchase of fifteen body cameras in conjunction with an upgrade of the Departments in car cameras and data storage system. Body cameras can be a useful tool in helping protect the public against police misconduct as well as helping protect police officers against false accusations of abuse. But there needs to be well-thought out policies developed and enforced on their use. From the Department of Justuce Report:

    “When implemented correctly, body-worn cameras can help strengthen the policing profession.These cameras can help promote agency accountability and transparency, and they can be useful tools for increasing officer professionalism, improving officer training, preserving evidence, and documenting encounters with the public. However, they also raise issues as a practical matter and at the policy level, both of which agencies must thoughtfully examine. Police agencies must determine what adopting body-worn cameras will mean in terms of police-community relationships, privacy, trust and legitimacy, and internal procedural justice for officers.”

    Full Reort:

  13. Meta
    Posted December 1, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    There may soon be body cameras on Ypsilanti officers.

    Ypsilanti City Council will discuss a resolution Tuesday night to approve upgrading in-car camera equipment for the Ypsilanti Police Department and to purchase body cameras that would be worn by officers while on patrol.

    In his request to council, Chief of Police Tony DeGiusti said the total cost of updating the current car video recording systems, purchasing body-worn cameras and purchasing the server, hardware, software, installation and training will be $54,634.

    As part of the purchase, 15 body cameras will be included and the service contract for those cameras will be provided by L-3 Mobile-Vision Inc. – the company that YPD will purchase the equipment from – at no additional charge for three years.Ypsilanti City Council will discuss a resolution Tuesday night to approve upgrading in-car camera equipment for the Ypsilanti Police Department and to purchase body cameras that would be worn by officers while on patrol.

    In his request to council, Chief of Police Tony DeGiusti said the total cost of updating the current car video recording systems, purchasing body-worn cameras and purchasing the server, hardware, software, installation and training will be $54,634.

    As part of the purchase, 15 body cameras will be included and the service contract for those cameras will be provided by L-3 Mobile-Vision Inc. – the company that YPD will purchase the equipment from – at no additional charge for three years.

    Read more:

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] I think people are ready to have that debate, and discuss the possibility, for instance, that we outfit our police officers with video cameras… A recent trial in Rialto, California, as you may recall, resulted in an 88% drop in […]

  2. […] I don’t imagine that it would hurt if we took this opportunity to demilitarize our police, make sure that every cop with a gun also has a body camera, address the inequality in our educational system, and get the money out of politics, which, when […]

  3. […] cameras to be worn by Ypsilanti police officers while on patrol. As readers of site know, this is something that I’ve been pushing for since first reading about the results of a trial in Rialto, California, where the use of body […]

  4. […] I’ve always been against the militarization of U.S. police forces, and in favor of more transparency, accountability and civilian oversight, I have to confess that I’ve never taken calls to […]

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