The Police departments of Los Angeles and New York are currently testing wearable cameras designed to record what officers see and hear during a police intervention. “Can you afford not to do something like this as a chief of Police” one officer said. “This is the future of law enforcement” says another.
There are many advantages in having policemen record videos. Dash cameras in police cruisers have proven this a long time ago and they are part of the normal landscape of law-enforcement. But with digital imaging capabilities exploding, the Police is set to take this to the next level. These glasses are still very much at the prototype level, but in a few years, they could record 4K video and do what high-end smartphones can do today. Combine that with voice and facial recognition technologies and you can see possibilities.
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Police departments believe that these cameras could reduce the number of personnel complaints and assault on police officers because they would provide definitive proof that should deter the offenders to start with. In turns, the Police expects that not dealing with those complaints would save a lot of time and money, which can then be used to deal with real crime.
At the moment, the cameras are not “ON” at all times, and it is up to the police officer to activate or de-activate it. At the end of the shift, the officer docks the camera and the data is securely transferred to another location while the camera is being recharged. Once recorded, the video cannot be tempered with by the officer.
But who watches the watchers?
While this new tool is set to serve the interest of Police forces very well, many are demanding that the concept needs to be taken to the next level so that the watchers are being watched. Some say that Policemen could conveniently turn the camera off when convenient. For instance, some Oakland police officers did not record their controversial encounters with protesters. Other people think that they should be allowed to record the law enforcement actions as well. Doing so has led to arrests in the past. Also, should these videos be accessible to the public? There are a lot of questions that still need answers.
More cameras on all sides will keep people honest, and it’s obvious that having additional versions of the facts can’t hurt. Without a proper context, even a crisp video can lead to the wrong conclusion. At the moment, the regulations that define when police cameras should be turned on and off are still being worked out. One thing is certain: as the ability to record video continues to explode (and this is FAR from over), the amount of video footage will continue to climbs, and it will change how law enforcement and justice will be done.