Police Should Have Body Cameras


  • The police will likely be filmed anyway
  • The police will have control of their own unedited video and audio
  • It will be more difficult for antipolice activists and media to create false narratives
  • The police will behave with greater restraint if they know they are being filmed
  • Unfounded Citizen complaints will drop if they know there’s a filmed record of events
  • Video data storage costs have become very reasonable

In the age of cell phones, virtually every person has a camera; and police are likely to be filmed anytime they interact with the public, especially where force is used.  This new reality is evidenced by all of the recent cell phone videos of police activity.  When the officer creates his own video record of an interaction, he or she (and the police department) can at least have their own record, which is not subject to selective editing or other alterations that may give an incomplete and/or biased “video record” of the interaction.  In addition, eyewitness accounts of police activity are often (either intentionally or unintentionally) inaccurate or incomplete.  A video account can provide an objective account of events.  Finally, when both police and citizens know that they are being recorded, and that the police officer and department will have their own video record of an interaction, all involved will be less inclined to act improperly, disproportionately, or treat different suspects in similar circumstances differently.  This should lead to more peaceful resolutions of conflicts.  Furthermore, the cost of fitting officers with cameras, and training on their use, can be relatively modest if approached economically, especially in comparison to the cost (both monetary and societal) of dealing with inaccurate or incomplete accounts of police activity.


  • Cameras don’t see everything an officer sees
  • Cameras don’t provide protection for juvenile offenders, rape victims, etc.
  • The police may lose the ability to show discretion, or leniency
  • Confidential informants must be protected and will be unlikely to talk if they think they are being filmed
  • Video could be exposed to hackers, blackmailers, and FOIA requests

It is impossible for any body camera or cell phone camera to capture all aspects of an interaction; so, in a sense, they provide a misleading account of such interaction, the effect of which is compounded by the perception that video footage is “irrefutable” or “the last word.”  In addition, police officers should be able to use a certain amount of discretion in dealing with situations, and recording all interactions on video may deter officers from making judgment calls in favor of suspects.  In addition, privacy concerns are implicated by governmental recording, and the recording and storage of police interactions which could reveal personal information or be embarrassing to suspects, especially if they are later determined not to have engaged in unlawful conduct; and there is always a risk that video could be misused, leaked, hacked or otherwise exposed inappropriately.  Finally, properly outfitting officers with reliable, state of the art video recording devices, and related costs of storing and viewing such video, can be cost-prohibitive.  Many departments already operate on limited budgets and this would further strain their resources.

Posted in: Point/Counterpoint

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

thirteen − eleven =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.