The use of police body cameras is spreading to keep officers honest about using force against citizens. But how and when the public gets to see the footage is up for debate.
Videos of police shootings have become critical to determining what happened in situations that turn deadly. In some cases, strapping cigarette pack-size cameras to officers’ uniforms has been framed as a way to curb police brutality and stem deteriorating trust in law enforcement.
It’s not that simple. While the recordings may help get to the truth of an incident with police, they also record distraught victims, grieving family members, people suffering from mental illness and citizens exercising their rights to free speech and civil disobedience. Cameras may solve one problem but create others.
Existing laws that govern what information is released to the public are on the chopping block, as states try to strike the balance between a citizen’s right to privacy and making officers answer for their actions.