Many police departments have started wearing body cameras that record their encounters with citizens.
In recent years, there have been numerous high profile incidents involving allegations of police misconduct that led to the death of a suspect. In response, many police departments have started wearing body cameras that record their encounters with citizens.
But how should police departments police themselves when it comes to body cams? If each department has its own procedures and policies for when a body cam starts rolling, or which types of encounters should or shouldn’t be recorded, how do the courts make evidentiary decisions in police misconduct cases? Or criminal defense cases?
Recently, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers released a report, “Policing Body Cameras: Policies and Procedures to Safety the Right of the Accused.” The report makes several recommendations for police departments that use body cams for their officers.
Report Gives 10 Recommendations for Police Body Cams
The report, which gathered opinions and advice on police body cameras from legal scholars, criminal justice experts, and other notable sources, makes the following recommendations:
- Police departments should have clear policies that establish when cameras will start rolling. These policies should make it clear that the decision to start recording is never left up to the officer.
- All video recorded during a police encounter should be stored for a specific period of time and long enough to allow the accused to gather evidence to support his or her defense.
- An individual who has been arrested should be given prompt access to all videos recorded via police body cam.
- Police departments’ body cam policies should be crafted in a way that’s designed to minimize misinterpretation of videos.
- Police officers shouldn’t have access to the videos prior to preparing their reports.
- Policies should prohibit the use of biometric technology in conjunction with the use of body cameras.
- Police departments and investigators shouldn’t be allowed to view the video after the encounter for purposes of bringing additional charges against the defendant.
- Adequate resources must be available to make sure officers have ongoing training in the use of body cameras.
- Counsel should be given adequate time and access to experts to render effective assistance of counsel.
- Independent, non-police agencies should be given control and access to all body camera footage.
The report states that these recommendations will allow police to use body cameras without infringing on individuals’ rights. According to the report, the adoption of uniform policies will also maximize body cameras’ use in “generating reliable criminal justice outcomes.”
Broden & Mickelsen, LLP
2600 State St Dallas, Texas 75204
Main Phone: (214) 720-9552