Plans for Police Body Camera Programs Proliferate Across the Nation

Nationwide 95% of large police departments have a desire for body cameras and about half have moved forward with pilot programs. 

A recent survey conducted by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs’ Association found that most large police agencies have body cameras on their minds — if not already on their officers’ bodies.

Survey results also showed that policies are still evolving to govern the emerging technology.

As reported in Governing:

So far, only 18 percent of agencies considered their body cameras “fully operational” last year. About half of the agencies surveyed had started or completed pilot programs, and just 5 percent indicated that they either don’t intend to implement body cameras or chose not to do so after completing pilot programs.

The police chiefs who don’t plan on adopting the cameras cite privacy concerns or fears that the footage could be posted publicly online, said David Roberts, a program manager with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), at a conference in Washington on Thursday. But those holdouts aren’t likely to remain much longer, he said. “Ultimately, they’re going to need to adopt it. Juries, prosecutors and the courts will demand it.”

Among other policy considerations, the article noted some of the challenges managing public access to camera footage:

Responding to public records requests for camera footage has posed problems for some departments. Agencies in some states, such as Washington, adhere to broad open records laws, while a few others have declined to release any footage to the public at all. The survey found about 72 percent of agencies are required to provide footage in response to records requests. Just under 9 percent are exempt, and the remaining 18 percent reported they hadn’t yet determined or didn’t know their policy.

One of MACo’s 2016 Legislative Initiatives is to amend the state public information act to balance transparency and accountability with privacy and other concerns as they relate to body camera footage.

For more information read the full article in Governing.