Ferguson police start using body cameras

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Ferguson police start using body cameras
A lapel camera worn by a police officer. Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons

Safety Visions and Digital Ally donated 50 body cameras to the Ferguson Police Department.  Police officers outfitted themselves with the devices on Saturday.  According to The St. Louis Dispatch, the companies gave the cameras to the police department after the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Jr.

Officers went through training on the use of the devices on Saturday.  The cameras record both video and audio.  They easily attach to uniforms.  Some officers will receive specialized training on their use.

“We are still playing with them,” said Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson.  “Officers are receptive to the cameras.  They are really enjoying them.  They are trying to get used to using them.”

Jackson said the devices were used by officers during a protest march on Saturday.  It enabled them to record crowd members teasing the police.

“The quality is good,” he said.

Fox News reported that there has been huge support for police officers to wear outward-facing cameras.  This has become especially evident since the Brown shooting.  Senator Claire McCaskill suggested that in order for police departments to receive federal funding, they should require their officers to wear the body cameras.

Jackson said the cameras are being distributed to squads and each officer will get one to use while on duty.  The batteries will typically last a full shift although they were drained Saturday at the protest due to their continual use all day.

The St. Louis Dispatch reported that video recordings are seen as a way to permit judges and juries to follow events as they unfold, assisting by clarifying often conflicting eyewitness reports.

“Everywhere I go people now have cameras,” McCaskill said.  “And police officers are now at a disadvantage, because someone can tape the last part of an encounter and not tape the first part of the encounter.  And it gives the impression that the police officer has overreacted when they haven’t.”

But there is usually more than one point of view.  Some civil liberty advocates, as well as law enforcement leaders, think a lack of definite guidelines on the use of cameras could possible create greater accountability for officers.  They also feel it may be a threat to both public and police officers’ privacy.

 

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