It was recently announced that a select group of bicycle-riding police officers in Seattle, WA were to be equipped with body cameras. The original plan was for a total of only 15 to 20 officers to be equipped with the latest cameras that are about the size of a cigarette pack. A number of officers received specialized training on their use to ensure they were in full compliance. However, the decision to deploy the cameras was put on hold by Seattle City administrators.
Concerns Over Use and Privacy May Be at Issue
There has been a certain amount of concern expressed by members of the public regarding the use of body cameras in the past few months. One part of which comes from the mistaken idea that a person would not know if they were being recorded. Nick Zajchowski, project manager for the Seattle PD says that the cameras being used have a light on the front that comes on when the camera is in use, thus anyone who is being recorded would be able to clearly see the camera was turned on.
It is the intent of the Seattle PD to have approximately 850 officers equipped with body cameras by 2017 at a cost of $4.6 million. According to a statement made in 2015 by Seattle PD Chief Kathleen O’Toole, the police department has a moral obligation to equip all of its officers with body cameras. In her statement, O’Toole is quoted as saying, ” Police officers are safer. People in our communities are safer, less likely to have use of force incidents and complaints against police.”
The good news is that a survey taken in the area showed that 92 percent were in favor of having local law enforcement officers equipped with body cameras. However, not everyone is happy with the idea as there is continued concern regarding the misuse of these cameras and the effect their use might have on the privacy of anyone who happens to be captured in the video.
One Thing to Keep in Mind
One important issue that needs to be firmly kept in mind is that the currently available body cameras have an unlimited depth of view, in other words, anything that the officer sees will be included in the footage being captured. Thus, not only does the footage show the person (s) and situation the officer is involved in, but at the same time, it is quite possible for anyone within range of the camera to be captured on the video footage.
This particular situation has raised grave concerns regarding individual privacy with the public and in particular with the ACLU who is currently working on in-depth research regarding the use and possible misuse of police body cameras. This concern among others is currently being investigated and may be part of the reason why so many law enforcement departments have yet to deploy this highly valuable technology for each and every one of their officers.