Wearing a Badge, and a Video Camera

Fascinating article about police officers wearing cameras and the impact on police-community interaction:

THE Rialto [California] study began in February 2012 and will run until this July. The results from the first 12 months are striking. Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24.

Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found. And, lest skeptics think that the officers with cameras are selective about which encounters they record, Mr. Farrar noted that those officers who apply force while wearing a camera have always captured the incident on video.

Even the ACLU is in favor!

What I kept thinking about is what happens when technology becomes so cheap it is basically disposable. In essence, these cameras are so cheap that every cop can wear one, memory is so cheap that he/she can record hours of video, and batteries are powerful enough to cover an entire extended shift. We are at an amazing tipping point that I think few of us can really fathom. And as with all massive technological shifts, these changes usher in an era of good and bad. The trick is figuring out how to control the latter without destroying the former.