In recent months, there has been much anger and debate in the U.S. about the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The African-American teenager’s death stemmed from a confrontation with a police officer who some contend used excessive force.
More recently, a grand jury investigating the events that lead to Brown’s death sided with the police officer and absolved the officer of any wrongdoing. Regardless of one’s stance regarding the circumstances of Brown’s death, many believe that much of the controversy surrounding this case could have been mitigated had the police officer been wearing a body camera.
For years, many police departments across the country have been using dashboard cameras in patrol vehicles. Evidence captured on these cameras has been beneficial in helping document traffic stops and reveal information that may benefit both the prosecution and defense in criminal investigations. Proponents of police body cameras contend the use of such devices serve to benefit police officers, defendants and the American public.
Last month, the Minneapolis Police Department announced the implementation of a new pilot program in which 36 patrol officers will be outfitted with portable video recording devices or body cameras. The MPD notes that the trial use of the PVRs will be used in part to examine the devices’ benefits in helping police officers recall “facts or other details … when writing reports,” training officers on safety and best practices and helping assess “contacts between officers and the public.”
According to a Star Tribune report on the PVR pilot program, police officers wearing PVRs “will be required to turn on their cameras during most of their encounters with the public.” Having audio and video recordings of a traffic stop that results in DUI charges or a drug possession arrest can benefit a defendant in a number of ways. Under the law, police officers are required to follow strict procedures when conducting traffic stops, arresting an individual and in the discovery of evidence.
Source: City of Minneapolis, “MPD Body Camera SOP,” Nov. 5, 2014
Star Tribune, “MPD reveals sneak peek of body cams pilot program,” Libor Jany, Dec. 11, 2014