What Happens When You Put Cameras On Cops?


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The adage of "who watches the watchmen?" beckons that even those who dish out justice should be met with the same repercussions if they too break the law. So as smart phone cameras record, microphones listen, and every bit of technology is bugged – under the principal that “If you have nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” (quoted from Nazi Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda) – you can rest assured that the same requirements of mass surveillance from the state imposing it tend to behave just like us when the sights are set on them: behaved.

It started as an experiment that ran from February 2012 for one full year: police officers in Rialto, California, when required to wear cameras on their chest, found that the use of force decreased by 60% (from 61 to 25), and complaints filed against officers fell by 88% (from 24 to 3.) The study rippled across the nation and over seas; the results garnered the attention of Manhattan Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin, leading to an order for the implementation of the devices in New York City last year; The College of Policing piloted the idea in England and Wales; and as of March of this year, the Los Angeles Police Department is field testing cameras with hopes of deploying them to all officers.

According to AP, “Most law enforcement officials and civil liberties advocates” say that “the lack of clear guidelines on the cameras' use could potentially undermine departments' goals of creating greater accountability of officers and jeopardize the privacy of both the public and law enforcement officers.” With this in mind, the full implementation to where the cameras would be standard protocol may take some time.

"When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better," Rialto's police chief William A. Farrar told the New York Times. "And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better."


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