Ethics in Criminal Justice Debate
Modern technology has digitalized information recording and storage. Over the years, mobile phones have been used in recording significant events like natural disasters and criminal activities. Similarly, the United States police departments are adopting the on-body cameras to increase police competency and transparency. Despite the success seen in states implementing the idea, it is still a debate on whether the police should wear body cameras while on duty. Additionally, some issues arise primarily on the privacy of the police and the public. Nevertheless, police officers should wear body cameras while on duty due to benefits, such as instilling accountability and improving public confidence with the police department.
Several states in the United States have adopted the body camera policy by the law enforcers. Research shows that in Rialto, California, the use of excessive force by the police reduced with 60% in the year they introduced the cameras. Additionally, public complaints against the police also declined with 88% (Wickham, 2016). Similarly, adopting body-mounted cameras will provide primary evidence in cases of disputed shootings. The policemen will not face murder accusations when they shoot in self-defense since the cameras will record the whole process. For instance, the shooting of Alton Sterling in 2016 by Louisiana police was justified in court despite a video released by a witness indicated that Sterling was immobile when he was shot on claims of gun possession. If the police wore body cameras during this incident, recordings should have shown if indeed Sterling threatened the policemen’s lives and was shot in self-defense. Moreover, the interaction between police officers and the citizens will improve due to the increased cautiousness that recorded conversations bring (Pollock, 2016). Consequently, the general performance of the police will improve following the increased transparency, accountability and decrease racial discrimination and criminal profiling.
However, the use of body cameras should be per law’s consideration of personal privacy. Some instances during which the police officers may switch off the gadget include while in the locker room, restrooms and at home. Additionally, witnesses and victims should give consent before recording the cross-examination. Failure to inform a person when recording them is violation of their right to privacy which is illegal. All accumulated videos from several precincts may take time to evaluate in addition to cases of officers deleting some videos to protect their jobs are leading challenges in the adoption process. There is a need to preserve the integrity of the recorded videos which will, in turn, protect the privacy of persons in the video. Therefore, the footages should be destroyed between 30-180 days to protect individuals in recordings from vengeful criminals.
In conclusion, the body worn cameras will improve police service, reduce cases of racial discrimination and profiling. Though there are controversies on the issue of privacy for both the police and the public, the law provides ways of protecting everyone’s privacy while maintaining peace and calm. Moreover, the piled up videos made are frequently destroyed to avoid information leakage and overload. Despite such challenges, adopting on-body cameras has increased the police efficiency as reported in California.
Pollock, J. M. (2016). Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice (9th Ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning. (ISBN: 978-1-305-57737-4)
Wickham, S. (2016). Body camera debate: Privacy vs. transparency. New Hampshire. Retrieved from http://www.unionleader.com/Body-camera-debate:-Privacy-vs.-transparency
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