Body Cameras for Law Enforcement: Good for Police, Good for Citizens

There’s been a lot of talk lately, across the country and in Massachusetts also, about whether or not police patrol officers and other law enforcement personnel should wear body cameras.   This debate has been fueled, of course, by allegations of police brutality & police misconduct, and the resulting lawsuits, following the shooting of minority defendants in various incidents across the country.

As a Boston criminal defense attorney, it’s my professional opinion that this is a great idea:  It provides both suspects as well as police officers an objective method of proof as to what did and did not occur in any given situation:  If an arrested suspect or a suspect who has been shot by police has been the victim of unnecessary force, there will be an objective source of evidence to prove it.  If a police officer has not used excessive force or otherwise done anything legally or procedurally prohibited by law or Department regulations, that can also be proven, immediately.  Forget the talking heads on the cable news shows.  Forget the endless blathering by those who make their careers on race-baiting and inflammatory accusations (I don’t have to name names here, do I?).  Forget the shout-fests on both liberal and conservative “news” channels.  The objective evidence will be right there – and it won’t lie.

It won’t lie because the technology developed for police body cameras, makes editing of the recorded material impossible.  Period.  And this feature, of course, is absolutely indispensable and an inviolable prerequisite in order to provide an unbiased view of any incident in question.  Here in Massachusetts the Methuen Police Department recently began an effort to adopt the use of body cameras, and the Methuen City Council will vote next week on whether or not the police force in that city will be required to wear the cameras.

The credit for this initiative actually belongs to the Department Chief, Joseph Solomon, who reached out to Taser International, which manufactures this equipment, and negotiated a three-month trial period with the company, to test out three different types of cameras.  His officers voted the “chest box” as the most reliable version of the equipment, and the cameras are also activated whenever a taser (also made by Taser International) is deployed. The package deal for the body cameras and the tasers will reportedly cost the city a little over $272,000 over a five-year period.  The Methuen City Council will reportedly vote on the proposal Monday night, December 21 2015.

This is money well spent.  Aside from assuring that patrol officers obey regulations and applicable laws, investments like these will ultimately cost a lot less than defending and settling civil lawsuits. If the proposal wins council approval, Methuen Police will be among the first in the Massachusetts to wear body cameras when on duty.  That’s what called common sense.

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