POLICE Magazine

OCT 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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W the end of the rst decade of widespread law enforcement use of body-worn camera sys- tems in the United States. -e cameras have become both much more popular and much more sophisticated and capable since their introduction. Law enforcement users are just begin- ning to scratch the surface of the possi- ble applications for this technology in a variety of police operations, including investigations. INTERNAL INVESTIGATIONS From the beginning body cameras were sold to law enforcement as an investiga- tive tool. As evidence capture systems they show at least some of what the oˆ- cer saw at the scene of an incident. -ey also capture audio. And if more than one oˆcer at an incident is wearing a video camera, the videos include visu- al evidence of what the oˆcers and the subject/suspect did. So when most people think of body camera use in investigations, they tend to cast them in a role of providing ev- idence to dispute false claims against oˆcers or, sadly, in some cases, to catch oˆcers in unprofessional and even criminal behavior. Indeed, the video captured by body cameras has been a boon to investiga- tors digging into claims against oˆcers. In many cases, they have even helped reduce the workload for internal af- fairs detectives and patrol supervisors charged with determining the veracity of citizen complaints. It is not unusual for complainants to drop their claims against oˆcers when they are informed that there is a recording of the incident. In many other cases, complainants are shocked at their own behavior aŽer they watch the videos, and they with- draw their complaints. In May a sher- i''s deputy in Virginia was accused of what amounted to racist terrorism on Facebook live aŽer a traˆc stop. -e deputy was cleared by his body camera, which showed a by-the-book traˆc stop where the deputy's behavior would be described by most people as profession- al and courteous. Of course, body cameras have also caught oˆcers doing and saying things they shouldn't, sometimes resulting in termination or even prosecution. In one recent case an Arizona sergeant was ter- minated for reportedly using his body camera to record sex acts in his oˆce. Body cameras have also captured evi- dence of oˆcers violating agency policy and sometimes the law in uses of force. EXTERNAL INVESTIGATIONS -e body camera has proven to be an essential tool for protecting oˆcers and agencies from unfounded claims of oˆ- cer misconduct as well as helping agen- cies weed out bad apple cops. It's also an extremely e'ective tool for capturing evidence of criminal activity in the eld. Body camera recordings of witnesses can augment oˆcer notes and replace voice recorder evidence. One oˆcer or multiple oˆcers can also capture im- ages of a crowd at a crime scene. Some oˆcers have even reported that body cameras have captured footage of per- petrators in crowds at crime scenes and 6 | SP E C I A L R E P O RT | I N V E S T IG AT I V E T E C H NO L O G I E S PHOTO: PANASONIC Body-worn cameras such as this Axon system have become critical tools in documenting the evidence of crimes. THE INVESTIGATIVE ROLE OF BODY CAMERAS BWCs are more than just video recorders; they are evidence capture systems. DAVID GRIFFITH PHOTO: AXON

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