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Cops’ Body-Worn Cameras: On The Near Horizon In NJ, Nationally?

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Cops’ Body-Worn Cameras: On The Near Horizon In NJ, Nationally?

September 11, 2014

It is manifestly apparent to every thinking person in the United States today that technology is ever-evolving and rapidly changing the way we live in fundamental ways.

That is true in virtually every realm of life, with residents in New Jersey and everywhere else across the country using high-tech and often mobile devices to interact in dynamically new ways with family members, friends, co-workers and other people. It is true at the workplace, at home, at shopping malls, banks and virtually everywhere else.

One distinct area where transformative technology is notably apparent is in police-citizen encounters. It is commonplace, for example, for many police departments these days to employ on-board video cameras in their cruisers for evidentiary purposes. That practice, although not uniformly apparent across the country, is growing, including in New Jersey.

A recent Wall Street Journal article discusses a tandem technology that is currently trending and could someday gain strong traction in police units nationally, namely, police officers’ use of body-mounted cameras to record all police-civilian interactions.

Given the premise, as noted by the Journal, that transparency can be “an unalloyed good,” the growing use of such mobile technology could well be a positive development in the area of criminal defense. Indeed, statistics compiled by one police department after body cameras were worn by all its officers for one year suggest that widespread adoption of the practice could materially improve relations between law enforcers and people in the communities they serve.

Here’s one relevant number: Following deployment of the devices, complaints against the police plummeted by nearly 90 percent. In tandem with that, force used by cops against citizens also declined appreciably.

It is easy to imagine such mobile camera use in situations like drunk driving-related stops and stop-and-frisk encounters.

Notwithstanding some kinks that need to be worked out (e.g., privacy issues, camera cost, tape storage), an author of a report on body-mounted cameras believes that their use will continue to grow, with widespread use across the country becoming the norm.

“It could be as little as 10 years until we see most police wearing these,” he says.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “What happens when police officers wear body cameras,” Christopher Mims, Aug. 18, 2014

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