[S]ome police departments are using miniaturized video cameras and their microphones to capture, in full detail, officers’ interactions with civilians. The cameras are so small that they can be attached to a collar, a cap or even to the side of an officer’s sunglasses. High-capacity battery packs can last for an extended shift. And all of the videos are uploaded automatically to a central server that serves as a kind of digital evidence locker.
William A. Farrar, the police chief in Rialto, Calif., has been investigating whether officers’ use of video cameras can bring measurable benefits to relations between the police and civilians. Officers in Rialto, which has a population of about 100,000, already carry Taser weapons equipped with small video cameras that activate when the weapon is armed, and the officers have long worn digital audio recorders...
Last year, Mr. Farrar used the new wearable video cameras to conduct a continuing experiment in his department, in collaboration with Barak Ariel, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge and an assistant professor at Hebrew University. Half of Rialto’s uniformed patrol officers on each week’s schedule have been randomly assigned the cameras, also made by Taser International. Whenever officers wear the cameras, they are expected to activate them when they leave the patrol car to speak with a civilian...
The Rialto 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...
But what about the privacy implications? Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, says: “We don’t like the networks of police-run video cameras that are being set up in an increasing number of cities. We don’t think the government should be watching over the population en masse.” But requiring police officers to wear video cameras is different, he says: “When it comes to the citizenry watching the government, we like that.”
Mr. Stanley says that all parties stand to benefit — the public is protected from police misconduct, and officers are protected from bogus complaints...
Before the cameras, “there were so many situations where it was ‘he said, she said,’ and juries tend to believe police officers over accused criminals,” Mr. Stanley says. “The technology really has the potential to level the playing field in any kind of controversy or allegation of abuse.”
Click here for 'Rialto PD's New On-Officer Cameras Capture the Best Evidence,' a video news report on the study from 4NBC Los Angeles. From the transcript:
"It’s capturing it in real time from the officers’ perspective,” said Sgt. Josh Lindsay, with Rialto police.
For the past year, Lindsay and about 40 other Rialto officers have been testing the on-officer cameras.
"It helps us do our job, documents what we are doing," he said.
Used during traffic stops and tense moments when officers feel forced to draw their weapons, the $1,200 on-officer cameras are a third-party eyewitness that is proving to be cost effective for the Rialto Police Department...
"If you are being watched you tend to behave in a more professional manner," Rialto Police Chief William Farrar said.
The cameras encourage his officers to perform more professionally and deter the public from acting out, or filing frivolous complaints against officers, Farrar said. They save the department time and money.
Lindsay, who co-manages the project, said the video evidence has forced some suspects to plead guilty out right. The video is securely uploaded to a cloud server – raw and unedited – at the end of each officer’s shift. It’s stored as evidence...
Farrar calls the technology the future of the law enforcement. In Rialto, soon every officer will be equipped with an on-body camera.
"I think this study has shown that these cameras are not only useful, but in my opinion, necessary,” he said.
Law enforcement pays out more than $2.5 billion dollars annually on complaints and lawsuit settlements alone. Clearly POV on-officer cameras are the video solution for accountable policing – accountable to both law enforcement agencies & the public.
The study is available in PDF format (The Effect of Body-Worn Cameras on Police Use-of-Force.pdf) as well as on the Scribd website for those who don't have a PDF reader (Self-awareness to being watched and socially-desirable behavior: A field experiment on the effect of body-worn cameras on police use-of-force).