POLICE Magazine

SEP 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

Issue link: https://policemag.epubxp.com/i/1022864

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Page 76 of 136

74 POLICE SEPTEMBER 2018 owned body camera before their agency provided one. In addition, 59% of respon- dents said they had used a personally owned or agency supplied audio recorder in the field to capture evidence other than interviews and protect themselves from false claims. ere's no doubt that body cameras have become a standard piece of equip- ment for American law enforcement. And the vast majority of the respondents, 88%, said that's a good thing. Our survey also shows there is some truth to the belief that body cameras have affected the way both officers and civilians interact. Asked if wearing a body camera on duty has changed the way they interact with the public, 23% of respon- dents said "yes." Asked if it's changed the way the public interacts with them as of- ficers, 38% of respondents said "yes." We wanted to dig a little deeper into this issue so we provided the respon- dents an opportunity to anonymously tell us how body cameras have changed such interactions. From the officer side, here' s a few responses. "It is a constant reminder for me to be professional," one officer wrote. Another was considerably more blunt: "It has stopped me from be- ing rude at times," the respondent wrote. cies that allow officers to turn off the cam- eras in such situations. But the presence of the camera, even if it's off, is enough to make some people hesitant. Despite such concerns, most officers who responded to our survey said they like wearing cameras. And the reason why became very clear when we asked if evi- dence captured by a body camera has ever cleared the respondents of a false claim. A whopping 45% said their body cams had saved them from such claims. is is another issue that we wanted to explore more deeply. So we let officers tell us what happened. ere were claims of racial slurs, sexual misconduct, unprofes- sionalism, rudeness, excessive force, and many other false allegations. A supervisor wrote: "I have yet to substantiate a claim against an officer after reviewing their camera." For the flipside of officers being exoner- ated by body cameras, we asked, "Has a body camera video ever caused you or a fellow officer from your agency to get into trouble?" More than a third of respon- dents answered yes to this question. We did not ask them to elaborate. From the beginning of the body camera era and especially post-Ferguson, agen- Another wrote about how the camera has changed the process of doing the job. "You ask questions you wouldn't have asked before because you want that information recorded," the respondent wrote, adding that it has become routine to narrate the actions taken by the officer and to hold up documents and evidence in front of the camera to capture them on video. Evidence capture was on the mind of another respondent who wrote: "When dealing with difficult individuals, I will stand there longer to be berated to en- hance the case against them." Perhaps the most disturbing statement by any of the respondents was: "I feel less safe because I am afraid of using force because of how it will look on the camera." We also gave officers an opportunity to tell us how body cameras have affected how the public reacts to them. Some said they gain more compliance and face fewer enraged subjects. Others said that effect can be temporary. A common implication was a body camera has a calming effect on more rational individuals; it doesn't on drunks, subjects on drugs, and people who are just generally belligerent. One ef- fect that multiple respondents mentioned is that some people who might have spo- ken with the officers in the past won't do so on camera. Many agencies have poli- EXCLUSIVE POLICE SURVEY: BODY CAMERAS Do you currently or have you ever worn a body camera on duty as a law enforcement officer? Do you like wearing a body camera on duty? Where on your body do you wear your body camera? 5% Other 54% Yes 88% Yes 46% No 12% No 1% Eyeglasses 9% Collar or epaulettes 85% Chest How long has your agency used body cameras? Less than one year One year to less than two years Two years to less than three years Three years to less than five years Five years or more 12% 22% 31% 19% 16%

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