Police Body Cameras Aren't As Reliable You Think

No, Body Cameras Aren't As Reliable You Think

We need to hold the police accountable, but body cams aren't even that good at doing their intended purpose of holding them reliable.


As the nation continues to protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, I've had this question at the back of my mind. We are living in the digital age where everyone has a minicomputer in their pocket. Thanks to the power of social media and smartphones the murders of innocent black men by law enforcement are able to be documented and shared to millions.

For years, Black Americans have tried to show the truth that they were being victimized by the police but people often disbelieved them.

Nowadays there are laws in place that allow the public to video the police with one-party consent. With this new age of recording, police departments have made body cameras for their officers more common than ever. At first, this may seem like a good thing, but looking deeper into it, there seem to be a bunch of loopholes present with the use of body cameras.

This question first came to my mind when I watched a short film on YouTube by the channel Omeleto. The film, titled "Two Black Men Get Pulled Over by a Cop on a Power Trip," features an ending, without spoiling, with a body camera. After watching the film I decided to look into the protocol for body cameras with police.

I stumbled on several YouTube videos from a couple of years ago and they explained how different departments used them.

The fifth precinct police department of Phoenix, AZ had an interview with several officials that revealed the process these cameras were used. For one, the officers are responsible for turning them on and off; this was immediately a red flag to me. The officer being interviewed revealed that they wanted their officers to feel responsible for turning them on and off. The department said they didn't want their officers to rely on technology. You can watch the video here.

With a lot of things, police in America always try and find a way to weasel out of any responsibility for incidents. For example, a police officer has special protection to where when a deadly incident occurs requiring an incident report, the officer can wait till 48 hours after the crime occurred to submit their side of the story. On top of that, police officers are subject to "qualified immunity." According to Cornell University, "Qualified immunity balances two important interests — the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably." For a simplified version, this TikTok video by user @karan_menon basically summed it up to where police are protected from a lot of repercussions that an officer might do in the field. A good example of this is the excessive force many police officers used on protestors for the Black Lives Matter movement.

There are numerous videos and pictures where we see officers covering their badge number, something people are legally allowed to ask. With police officers basically having their identities hidden, they were permitted to be brutal because they faced no true repercussions. We've seen the videos of police officers rushing crowds, beating individuals with clubs, and spraying people with tear gas, and shooting them with rubber bullets. And as the movement starts becoming talked about less and less, these officers know they are not going to faced any repercussions individually because it is very difficult for a civilian to ID which officer did it.

Officers are getting caught, but not enough.

There have been some officers who got caught like the officers in Buffalo, NY, and some NYPD officers. But the fight is far from over. That is why I feel officers should have their body cams on at all times. Because if billions of dollars are going to these police departments, then surely they can afford the server space and 24-7 recording cameras. There is no excuse, and I pray more people to speak up about it. Black Lives Matter isn't a trend and can't go away. And having us have body cams on more cops, then justice can be served for families who have had members unjustly murdered.

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