People across the United States have been protesting what they perceive as police brutality and judicial bias. And, their outrage has found resonance with the Obama administration, which has made $20 million in grants available to law enforcement agencies for body cams, small front facing devices with cameras that will be mounted on the chest area of police officers.
Proponents of the technology cite several studies where the use of body cams by police has reduced incidences of police abuse. And, while law enforcement officials point out that the evidence is largely anecdotal, most agencies are in favor of using the devices. Ultimately, many believe that equipping officers with high definition body cameras will generally improve law enforcement as well as reduce agency liability in cases where there are claims of police brutality.
Nonetheless, the technology presents some challenges. Many departments don’t have the money or the technological acumen. Fortunately, however, video surveillance is one of the fastest growing areas of technology; as a result, costs are decreasing and body cams are becoming much easier to use. Furthermore, with the cost of storage improving, law enforcement agencies can store videos longer and more effectively than they did in the past.
Still, body cam technology isn’t 100 percent reliable. In order to ensure the accuracy of their reports, police officers would have to turn on their cameras before any interaction or confrontation. However, they may neglect to do so in the heat of a chase or if there is imminent public threat. Startups are devoting time and resources to solving this problem. Their goal is to remove the human equation so that the cameras turn on automatically. This would mean that as soon as an officer leaves the car or an elevation in heart rate is detected, the body cam would activate and begin to record the ensuing events.
Moreover, since the videos are uploaded in real-time, there is less concern about police officials making changes or deleting incriminating images. In this way, the videos will play a significant role in court cases and help to ensure the safety of those being arrested. This is not to say that technology alone will solve the problem of police brutality, but it will provide law enforcement with better tools to perform their jobs.