The use of body worn cameras in law enforcement has become a nationwide trend. Many communities in the United States have pushed leaders to purchase the cameras after high-profile events involving police. Body worn cameras give law enforcement departments a way of maintaining transparency in community policing, thereby preserving public trust.
This week, we implemented body worn cameras for your patrol deputies. Deputies are required to record interactions with motorists, pedestrians, and when encountering a situation in which someone may be committing a crime. They have embraced the new equipment; when given the choice to wear the cameras before it was mandatory, all of them took advantage of the opportunity.
Body worn cameras provide deputies the ability to capture details of dynamic events that may be difficult to document in a standard police report -- things like tone, environmental factors, and other elements that help provide context to the incident. Incorporating the video technology enhances the investigative process, but it will certainly be more time consuming for deputies.
A loss in efficiency on patrol could be made up in other areas. Often, deputies are called to testify in court about an event that happened months or years earlier. The video evidence can serve as a reminder of the incident. Trials may even be avoided altogether because of the evidence provided by the video. And if a citizen lodges a complaint against a deputy, video of the contact is quickly available, aiding in a more succinct conclusion to the investigation.
While body worn cameras are a great tool for deputies and community members, they also have limitations. Cameras are two-dimensional and cannot sense things as humans do. For example, the resulting video does not reflect a deputy’s point of view completely because the camera lens can only point in one direction at once, while we are able to shift our eyes and turn our heads to increase our view. Likewise, a microphone cannot perceive the direction or distance from which a sound originates, while a person can.
We want you, our fellow community members, to be assured that we have your individual privacy rights in mind. Deputies will give notice that the contact is being recorded, unless circumstances do not allow them to safely do so. They will be mindful about recording situations that are sensitive in nature, upon request, or if it is deemed unnecessary. They will also be considerate about recording inside homes, following proper evidence collection procedures.
We will continually assess the use of body worn cameras in our daily operations. We will let you know how it is going in a future update.
Thank you for your support,
Captain Nathan Sickler