Poll Results: Cops speak out about body cameras

Even as body camera sales rise, decision-makers are hesitant about what this means for their agency and law enforcement as a whole

By Police1 Staff

Body cameras have been a slowly developing trend in the law enforcement community for the last several years, but interest in the technology has skyrocketed in recent months, after the high-profile officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Mo. had officers and civilians alike asking: What if Officer Wilson's body camera had been turned on? 

Like any trend that threatens to change the protocols and policies in law enforcement, police chiefs and decision-makers are hesitant to jump on the body camera bandwagon. After all, new technology means new costs, new training, new policies, and unforseen problems that only trial and error can expose. But is it worth it? 

We polled nearly 1,500 Police1 Facebook fans to find out what thoughts and concerns our law enforcement community has today about body cameras. Here’s what we learned:

1. Only 21.9 percent of those surveyed neither have body cameras nor have any plans of getting them in the future, meaning almost 80 percent of law enforcement officials polled either have body-worn cameras, are testing them currently or are looking into them.

Officers who answered that every officer was equipped with a camera (14.8 percent) came from agencies of all sizes, but the majority of those polled come from an agency of 26-100 officers (26.7 percent) or from an agency of 500 or more (25.6 percent).

2. When asked what the biggest concern is for officers regarding body cameras, 33.7 percent of those polled answered “A lack of privacy for the officers wearing them,” making it the most popular response. 

Another 28.7 percent believed body cameras pose a physical liability – making storage and maintenance costs the smallest concerns of officers.  

The rest of those polled, who answered "other," believe there were more drawbacks to consider:

"Invasion of privacy for people who call the police. Just because somebody needs help, doesn't mean they want their home, family, personal items, etc, videotaped and on record." – Officer in an agency of 500 + officers.

"Ability for public to "arm chair quarterback" decisions officers have to make in the heat of the moment." – Officer in an agency of 26-100 officers.

"Becoming too worried about camera activation and that [worry] taking away from officer safety. Officers have a tendency to worry more about IA than safety at times." - Officer in an agency of 101-250 officers. 

3. Over 71 percent of poll-takers agreed that a body camera equipped to the torso versus the glasses was preferable.

4. 67.7 percent of those polled said despite some of the drawbacks, they would equip their department with body cameras if the decision was up to them.

Below are some of the responses as to why officers would or would not give all officers body cameras: 

Surveyors who answered 'No' to question 4: 

“Courts will expect video footage of incidents. When no footage is available the officer's integrity and the case will be put into question.” – Officer in a dept. of 26-100, all have body cameras

“Report writing just became more cumbersome: the written report better reflect exactly what the camera recorded. However what is recorded does not equate with the officer perceives.” – Officer in dept. of 26-100, all have body cameras

“When technology improves and auto 'on' and proper memory and storage and wireless functionality is there THEN we will consider using them. I pity the first officer with a body camera who forgets to turn it on or is shot because their decision to turn on the camera slowed their application of force” – Officer in dept. of 26-100 without body cameras

Surveyors who answered 'Yes' to question 4: 

“The video evidence adds to officer accountability, vindicating us and showing the public that officers are performing their jobs in the most extreme circumstances and to the highest levels of professionalism.” – Officer in dept. of 500 + without body cameras

“It makes the department transparent and would eliminate 90% of the unfounded complaints from the citizens and not waste the officers time with such complaints. It would also give perspective to use of force situations, but it should not be relied on solely in place of the officers testimony.” – Officer in dept. of 500+ with some body cameras

“Video footage is much more likely to get a cop out of trouble than in trouble. Officers get false accusations thrown at them all the time. Video is a great equalizer.” – Officer In dept. of 1-25 without body cameras

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