Are Police Bodycams the Answer to the Ferguson Dilemma?

Occupy Corporatism
by Susanne Posel

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Vest cameras are in high demand after the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Corporations who manufacture these devices have seen an increase in sales and police requests for orders number in the thousands.

In Ferguson, two private security firms have donated bodycams to the police departments so that cops can wear recording devices in an attempt to quell tensions between the residents and the police forces.

The Michigan state police department (MSPD) has ordered a reported $1.1 million in vest cameras from Digital Ally, the manufacturer that produces “cameras compact enough to be pinned to shirts, belts or eyeglasses.”

Included in the order to Digital Ally from the MSPD was:

• Rear view mirror video cameras
• Miniature body-worn audio/video cameras

The MSPD joins other police departments who have “tested the viability of bodycams” on officers such as Detroit, Farmington Hills, Macamb County Sheriff’s Office; however the cost effectiveness of such an endeavor has become a roadblock.

The MSPD currently uses bodycams for “undercover purposes” and are installing “dashboard cameras to record police interactions.”

Mike Shaw, spokesperson for the MSPD said: “Each camera costs about $1,000, making it cost-prohibitive for the MSP force of about 1,300. Battery life is about four hours. With troopers working 12-hour shifts, they’d have to replace them about three times during each shift.[Yet] we do know that our citizen complaints drop dramatically when they know that they are being recorded.”

Rialto City in California has become a look-to case in point for other police departments to determine if bodycams are right for consideration.

Impressively, because of their use of bodycams going back to 2011, the Rialto City police department (RCPD) has seen a 60% decrease in use of force incidents and complains against officers have dropped by 87.5%.

According to the RCPD bodycam program, 40 officers were required to wear “mount cameras on their uniforms or on headsets. During that year, the department logged 61 use-of-force incidents by officers in Rialto, a city of about 100,000 residents. That number dropped to 25 in 2012, the first year of the study, ticked back up to 33 in 2013, but remains well below the pre-camera average.”

By 2013, those 40 officers were increased to 70. This increased the value of the information the bodycams provided on minute details of stops and public interactions by police.

In York County, Virginia, Richard Shoemaker, member of the York Cop Block (a group who films the actions of the police during stops with cellphones to hold departments to some sort of accountability) spoke to a panel of concerned residents and police executives to explain that his organization thinks “ever officer should wear a camera.”

Shoemaker emphasized: “People act differently when they know they’re being recorded. I believe overwhelmingly police officers act in a professional way. Are there cases when they don’t? Yes. I think cameras will mostly vindicate officers.”

The York City police department is ordering two bodycams to be tested on “ork City School District resource officer[s]” because the technology “could be useful during disorderly situations.”

The arguments for the use of bodycams on police officers is one of public interest and is being used as an effort to “secure legitimacy in [police officers] enforcement” of the law while simultaneously fostering “public support”.

The need for police departments to regain the public trust has become central to the issue of how the militarization of the police in general has caused widespread public concern.

Occupy Corporatism