Police body cameras can benefit public

Published 10:59 am Friday, August 28, 2015

According to an unscientific poll on The Daily Leader website, 92 percent of people think the Brookhaven Police Department should use body cameras. We tend to agree.

Given what’s taken place around the country, police body cameras are a reasonable measure that would protect officers and the public.

Police Chief Bobby Bell requested $17,000 for the cameras, and it appears the city will fund that request.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“Basically I want to cover any interaction my officer has with anybody in the public. It would cut down on a lot of complaints and in case we did have a situation of any type we would have it recorded,” Bell said. “And it doesn’t have to be a shooting or a killing or [anything like that],” Bell said. “It would be turned on […] any time an officer has to go out in the public.”

City officials also recently discussed adding dash cameras to police vehicles.

“If we go with both of them we can’t go wrong. That’d really get us where we need to be. Anything we need to help the department we’re going to do,” Ward 1 Alderman Randy Belcher said.

If the city opts to outfit officers with body cameras, and we think it should, there will much to work on when it comes to privacy, training, data storage and a host of other issues.

Unlike dash cameras that primarily record interactions police have in public places, body cameras will go with officers into homes and private spaces. The potential to capture embarrassing or otherwise private matters on video is a real concern.

How that video is downloaded, viewed and stored is also a concern. Imagine an officer with a body camera entering the home of a suspected criminal, only to find a perfectly law-abiding citizen doing something legal, but incredibly embarrassing. Who will have access to that video? How long will it be stored? Where will it be stored? The city would likely face a lawsuit if that video was shared or someone gained access to it.

There’s also the issue of editing videos. For body cameras to work as intended, police can’t choose what to record and what not to record. If police can simply turn off the cameras as they please, then they serve no purpose.

While the idea of body cameras is a good one, there is much to sort out before officers take to the streets with them.