Police-worn body cameras can protect citizens, officers
The notion of curbing perceived police misconduct toward the general public has become increasingly popular in light of recent controversial interactions between citizens and police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City. These events have sparked debates relevant to police reforms across the country, including in Buffalo, where recent claims of excessive police force have been trending in the news.
While many reforms have been proposed, one that has proven effective in curbing police misconduct while increasing transparency during interactions between police and citizens is the utilization of police-worn body cameras. Accordingly, to protect the citizenry at large and police personnel, the vast majority of whom are honest and professional, city leaders should direct the Buffalo Police Department to launch a pilot program for body cameras.
Body cameras generate accountability and transparency for both police and citizens by creating a digital record of police officer interaction, helping to clarify discrepancies in reporting of incidents. When the Rialto Police Department in California adopted body cameras, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent and the use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent. The Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office and the Police Executive Research Forum released a report finding evidence that both officers and civilians acted in a more positive manner when they were aware that a camera was present.
Clearly, cameras alone will not solve the problem of mistrust between the community and the police. However, when people trust law enforcement and have confidence that they will be treated with fairness and respect, cooperation with law enforcement investigations and therefore public safety should inevitably increase. City leaders should plan to implement a body camera pilot plan in order to advance our shared goals of an open, transparent Police Department and a safer Buffalo.
Kevin M. Stadelmaier
Chief Attorney, Criminal Defense
Unit, Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo