Police Body Cameras Raises Ethical Discussions

By Tony Yeung ’18

Police officers in New York City (NYC) will soon be required to wear body cameras. This technology is used to regulate the actions of officers on duty, especially on the crime scene.

Body cameras can benefit the public and protect the jobs of police officers; they should be used because they are technological innovations for protection and regulation.

This technology has the potential to reduce stop and frisk, racial discrimination of Blacks and Hispanics, and misconduct. By being on the record, police officers should be more aware of their punishments and what they are supposed to do. The fact that suspects are also being recorded reduces resistance and violent behavior.

The footage covered by the body cameras should be available to the public in certain circumstances. The footage can be used as evidence in court to decide the verdict of a police officer.

Recording police officers on duty can educate the public as well as rookie officers. The officers may learn civic values and lessons on techniques.

Body cameras, however, have limited capabilities. The equipment only has one point of view. By seeing in the position of the officer, the suspect is often misinterpreted and unrepresented.

Officers sometimes intrude on personal affairs such as disputes, which may contain confidential information. Sometimes they are required to wander onto personal property with or without a warrant. These situations violate the privacy of the people. Officers are also restricted from turning off their cameras until the end of their day, so they can’t avoid recording.

Body cameras are also not reliable. Police officers can manipulate their body camera and turn them off when instructed not to. During rainy and snowy days, the camera may get fogged even if it’s waterproof. Excess footage is also to be expected due to the recording of police officers’ regular routines. Data storage is very expensive. According to The New York Times, in the article City Comptroller Blocks Contract to Buy Body Cameras for Police Officers by J. David Goodman, New York City’s comptroller declined the approval of a six point four million dollar contract for body cameras for police officers. This posed an issue to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to get every police officer a body camera by 2019.

Many Black and Hispanic people are still being discriminated against. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), in the first three quarters of 2016 (January – September), New Yorkers were stopped by the police 10,171 times. 7,758 were totally innocent (76 percent). 5,401 were black (54 percent). 2,944 were Latino (29 percent). 1,042 were white (ten percent). Body cameras will not completely prevent stop and frisk, but they will reduce it.

Reducing unethical conduct with body cameras can correct the NYC police force and influence others to follow good ethnics.

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