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Published:January 2nd, 2015 15:39 EST
Body Cameras to Deter Excessive Force used by Police and the General Public?

Body Cameras to Deter Excessive Force used by Police and the General Public?

By Ron G Anselm

In my opinion, Police wearing body cameras is a good idea especially with the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and New York. A lot of people look at the police as bullies and always out to find ways because of their authority to basically screw over the general public. Not the case. People tend to forget how it would be if we didn`t have the good cops out there patrolling our streets and keeping us all safe in a world that needs more of them.

Imagine yourself in a situation where a thug is robbing you, trying to beat the you know what out of you or you just need the police in any given situation how it feels to have them there for your protection. If your one of the people that think negative of the police - I`m sure that will change your opinion about them. We need the police we cannot do it without them.

The police officers I know are good hearted and caring cops that take their job seriously and live up to the saying I used to see growing up in Los Angeles on every LAPD cruiser, ` To Protect and Serve`.

The concept of authorizing police worn body cameras is in the works by President Obama and research has also found out having body cameras on the police will also increase self-awareness " that can aid in the prevention of unacceptable uses of force by the police and abusive behavior towards the police and even prevent tragic events like Ferguson, Missouri and New York that have filled the airwaves of the media recently.

The Rialto, California police department experimented using police worn body cameras back in 2012 and some of the statistics taken from that year long experiment showed the use of force by officers who were wearing the body cameras fell by 59% and the abuse by the general public towards officers fell by 87%. Kind of works both ways on being good boys and girls when you know big brother is watching I guess.

 There are still a lot of questions about the use of this new technology is going to fare out in the long run. Police departments are still researching and gathering information about this technology and some of the main questions that still need to be answered are how enormous amounts of data collected by the camera will be stored and normalizing the provisions of digital video and using the digital video as evidence will affect any legal and prosecution expectations. Also, President Obama recently promised to spend at least 263 million dollars of Federal funds on body worn video to try to show that the government is watching and monitoring the police and to try to help bring unity once again across many communities in the country between the communities and the police.

Another issue that is also being looked at with the use of police worn body camera is when the need for the use of force or even how much force may be need to subdue the situation then the police may be sort of gun shy of having to use that force when necessary due to the fact they are being watched and not sure how it will be viewed when looked at. This could pose a greater issue with the safety of our police officers. This is something that if it comes up in any situation will have to be viewed and all avenues looked at to what the situation was and if the use of force was necessary if it ever comes up.

Dr Barak Ariel, from the Cambridge`s IOC commented on this by stating, "With institutionalized body-worn-camera use, an officer is obliged to issue a warning from the start that an encounter is being filmed, impacting the psyche of all involved by conveying a straightforward, pragmatic message: we are all being watched, videotaped and expected to follow the rules. " (Ariel, B.)

This is a good thing because it gives a stern warning and any action by the police or assailant afterwards is solely up to that individual if they want to abide by the laws or if the police also want to abide by the policies set forth on the use of force. This is the same concept as being in the Martial-arts. Everyone has the right to defend themselves it is how you go about defending yourself that counts. If you are ever faced in a self-defense situation with no chance of walking or running away you would give a stern warning that hey, I am a Black Belt and do not want to fight. If the attacker moves forward with the attack then you have every right to take them down but you are also under the laws of how much force was actually needed to subdue the attack.

You don`t hit the attacker with say one straight punch and he or she goes down then you jump on them because they pissed you off and pound on them like you were going to town. You could end up being prosecuted and going to prison. Anyway the point is it is all about how much force was needed (if any) and what the situation was that warranted the force you used to subdue the situation.

The difference is at least I was told by my Tae Kwon Do instructor when I took brief lessons in the past in that discipline that in self-defense if your attacker has a weapon then the game changes and you have the right to use deadly force.

You have the right to protect yourself with every and anything you need to. It probably is the same as a police officer especially if your attacker has a knife or gun and I am not an expert on the laws or policies as a police officer on the use of warranted deadly force but just make sure you give a stern warning identifying yourself as a police officer or a black belt in the Martial-Arts and give the attacker a chance to back down and give up their weapon before you move forward with any deadly force. We all have to understand that every life counts and that life is precious.

Another good thing about using police worn body cameras is that they appear to be highly cost-effective. The experiment done by the Rialto police department back in 2012 showed that every dollar that was spent on each camera saved about four dollars or so on the administration things like complaints of litigations. Meaning people are not saying the police used excessive force and now I am calling my lawyer because the camera and big brother was watching.

The only expensive pat of using camera is data storage which is being looked at to try to find other ways for cost-saving measures. Barak Ariel went on to comment on this by saying, "The velocity and volume of data accumulating in police departments -- even if only a fraction of recorded events turn into `downloadable` recordings for evidentiary purposes -- will exponentially grow over time. User licenses, storage space, `security costs`, maintenance and system upgrades can potentially translate into billions of dollars worldwide. And, if body-worn cameras become the norm, what might the cost be when video evidence isn`t available? "Historically, courtroom testimonies of response officers have carried tremendous weight, but prevalence of video might lead to reluctance to prosecute when there is no evidence from body-worn-cameras to corroborate the testimony of an officer, or even a victim. Body-worn-video has the potential to improve police legitimacy and enhance democracy, not least by calming situations on the front line of policing to prevent the pain and damage caused by unnecessary escalations of volatile situations. But there are substantial effects of body-worn-video that can potentially offset the benefits which future research needs to explore." (Ariel, B.)

So, the use of police worn body cameras will hopefully prove to be a big asset in stopping excessive force used by the police and unwanted abuse towards the police by the general public. Now, if we could just get a handle on the spike in violence around the country over the past few years that have sent many people to their local gun shops to buy a cartridge full of protection.

                                                                             References

Science Daily " Your Source for the Latest Resource News, http://www.sciencedaily.com, First scientific report shows police body-cameras can prevent unacceptable use-of-force.

Barak Ariel, William A. Farrar, Alex Sutherland. The Effect of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Use of Force and Citizens` Complaints against the Police: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10940-014-9236-3. Retrieved 2014.

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