Reality Check: Body cams a game changer? - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Reality Check: Body cams a game changer?

FOX19 -

On Friday the Department of Justice announced it will soon provide $20-million in grants to local police departments to help purchase body cameras as part of a 3-year, $75-million funding program.

Outfitting uniformed police officers nationwide could potentially satisfy the public's desire for greater transparency and accountability from law enforcement, however when to use body cameras, when not to use them, and how to pay for them remain questions with no clear cut answers.

According to a comprehensive study by the Police Executive Research Forum the nearly 1,000 police departments currently using body cams set their own policies determining whether or not to record traffic stops, arrests, searches, interrogations and pursuits.

Meanwhile, in a recent survey 7 in 10 police officers said they are in favor of wearing body cameras, however many believe there are times when the cameras should be turned off including during interviews with victims rape and or abuse as well as while conducting interviews with witnesses of crimes who fear retaliation.

Other police officers have voiced concerns that body cameras could ultimately damage community relationships and build barriers.

And then there are the cost factors: body cameras are priced between $120 and $2,000 each which does not include the data storage fees which can range from the tens of thousands of dollars upwards to a million depending on the size of the department.

On Friday, as part of FOX19 Now's special on race relations in America, civil rights leader and Pastor Damon Lynch argued body cams will quickly become more about money and less about public safety: "Police reforms are like Brer Rabbit and the Briar Patch…whoever makes body cams is about to become a multi-million dollar industry...a multi-million dollar company and the community now has reforms but is still mired in I think too often we are playing checkers when we should be playing chess."

There are also privacy factors to consider, including where to store video footage, how long to keep it and determining which video clips can be released to the public.

The bottom line is this; body cameras may be a game changer in police/community relations but we are very early in the game.

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