Ep. 10: Privacy and Police Body Cameras Part One

About the Episode and Police Body Cameras

In the first part of the Police Body Camera Episode, we analyze the impacts of instituting body cameras in local police forces. Body worn cameras increase accountability and decrease costs for departments. However, they bring about serious concerns about privacy. The discussion stems from the proposal of California Assembly Bill 748, introduced by Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). AB 748 would require all police agencies to create policies regarding the release of body cam footage to the public. Of course, I wouldn’t forget the ice cream analogies.

Brief Show Notes

Background

Recently, Pew Research found growing differences between the public and the police. Pew found that while 83% of the public believe they have a good understanding of the risks and challenges involved in policing, 86% of police disagreed.

There have been five previous bills (In 2015: AB 66, Weber; AB 1246, Quirk; SB 175, Huff and Gaines. In 2016: AB 1940, Cooper; AB 2533, Santiago) proposed in the California Senate and Assembly regarding the topic of police body cameras since 2015. All have failed to even reach a floor vote.

Current law gives police departments and officers the option to use body worn cameras. However, if they opt-in then they must develop safe and secure means of downloading and storing the information.

A 2013 survey by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Police Executive Research forum found that 75% of departments did not use body worn cameras. A separate survey, by the Major Cities Chiefs association and Major Counties Sheriffs Association, found that 95% of departments are committed to implementing body worn cameras in the near future.

Cost-benefit analysis

Body worn cameras have been shown in multiple studies to decrease the use of force by officers. For example, the University of Cambridge found a 59% drop in the use of force for those officers wearing cameras. Similarly, Rand Corporation and the Department of Justice found drops in the use of force.

There are concerns about privacy for the suspect, police, and any bystanders. The privacy of the suspect comes into play when the video is published to the public. Publication allows the public to alter the videos. Officers express concern over the use of “fishing expeditions” by their supervisors. Such “expeditions” are when videos are searched to find other infractions the officer may have made while on duty.

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About Luke Scorziell

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Mr. Scorziell created The Edge of Ideas when he was 15 years old. After a few years of blogging he found a passion for podcasting and now regularly has guests on his show, Bills with Luke Scorziell. Find out more about Luke and his unique journey. Feel free to send Luke a message below.

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