Politics Magazine

Should The Police Be Required To Wear Video Cameras ?

Posted on the 14 August 2014 by Jobsanger
Should The Police Be Required To Wear Video Cameras ?
Let me preface my remarks in this post by saying that I have no desire demonize the law enforcement officials in the United States. I spent over 25 years of my working life in law enforcement myself (8 years as a corrections officer, 5 years as a patrol officer, and another 13 years working in parole -- both adult and juvenile). And I can honestly say that the overwhelming majority of the law enforcement officials I worked with were honest, professional, and would never dream of violating any individual's rights (or engage in any other kind of misconduct). They were brave men/women who put their own safety on the line to protect their community -- and they did it out of a desire to serve (not for the meager monetary rewards).
But that does not mean there aren't problems that exist. And the American public is very aware of those problems. As the chart above shows, a majority of Americans believe there are problems with police misconduct across this country -- especially concerning corruption (64%), brutality (61%), intimidation (59%), racial profiling (56%) and abuse of stop & frisk laws (50%).
And the public is right. These problems do exist -- and they exist in every state and most communities across this nation. The law enforcement officials who commit these offenses are only a tiny percentage of this nation's law enforcement professionals, but these few bad apples tarnish the reputation of all those trying to do a difficult job the right way. And despite what you may see on TV and in the movies, most law enforcement professional would be very happy to see these bad apples kicked out of the profession and convicted (where appropriate). The question is how to do that.
Some will say the profession needs to police itself. The problem with that is that no occupation or profession does a good job of policing itself (and law enforcement is no different than any other profession in that regard). Without absolute proof of misconduct, which is very hard to get, any profession (including law enforcement) will be prone to excuse the actions of their members. And the same goes for our courts. Law enforcement professionals are given much more "benefit of the doubt" by a jury than other defendants. While this protects some officials falsely accused, it also allows many guilty individuals to get off (and return to the streets to offend again).
Technology may have provided an answer though. There are now tiny high-quality cameras that can be worn unobtrusively -- and they will provide a video of exactly what happens between the individual wearing it and anyone he/she comes in contact with. These cameras can document wrongdoing, and they can also protect those falsely accused. They could provide the absolute proof needed to help both law enforcement agencies to police themselves, and the courts to make appropriate decisions.
I think it would be a good idea to mandate that police officers (and possibly some other law enforcement professionals) wear these tiny cameras while on duty. And it looks like a huge majority of the American public likes that idea too. Note in the chart below that 72% of the general public would be in favor of that -- and that support crosses all demographic lines (gender, race, age, education, and income).
What do you think? Would you support requiring police to wear cameras and videotape what happens on their shift?
Should The Police Be Required To Wear Video Cameras ?
These charts were made from information contained in a recent YouGov Poll -- conducted of a random national sample of 1,114 adults between July 11th and 14th, with a margin of error of about 4 points.

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