Dallas' Cops Should All Wear Body Cameras, Pretty Much Everyone Agrees

body_cams.jpg
West Midlands Police
Body cams are used in Britain, and now an unlikely pair are calling for all Dallas cops to have them.
In the midst of a string of recent police shootings, the Dallas Police Association, the city's largest police union, has called for all officers to be outfitted with body cameras that record the officers' every move. And the union's receiving support from a group not generally considered an ally: the activist group Dallas Communities Organizing for Change, which has been critical of police misconduct.

At a town hall meeting last Monday, Chief David Brown said the department has 90 such cameras already and is hoping to get the funding for 200 more in the next city budget. But that's not enough, say DPA President Ron Pinkston and DCOC spokesman Walter Higgins.

"One quick win we think that could happen is they could go ahead and fully fund getting body cameras for all patrol officers," says Higgins, whose group wants, among other things, the Department of Justice to open an investigation into what they call the DPD's "pattern and practice of police misconduct and excessive force." They've also picketed at District Attorney's Craig Watkins' house over too few indictments of officers involved in shootings.

"(Body-worn cameras have) reduced the number of complaints against officers," Higgins says, "but it's also reduced the number of incidents that officers have had because for some reason when people know they're on camera they do certain things. It protects both people."

See also:
- Dallas' Police Union Really Doesn't Want DA Craig Watkins to Investigate Police Shootings
- Tonight in Dallas, Craig Watkins Will Discuss His Plan to Investigate all Police Shootings

Studies from across the country back that up. According to one from 2010 by a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, "Officers reported that recording their actions increased professionalism and performance in the sense that if forced them to give more attention to following agency protocols in their dealings with citizens and suspects; citizens supported the use of the cameras as a way to change police behavior and to hold officers accountable."

In a study conducted by the Police Foundation, which takes a scientific approach to policing, from February 2013 to February 2014, 54 of 115 officers who patrolled the 100,000-person town of Rialto, California, were equipped with body cameras. The study says that use of force -- which meant here when an officer used pepper spray, a baton or a gun -- was infrequent by Rialto officers, but the officers who wore body cams used such force half as many times as officers who did not have cameras. Complaints against police also dropped compared with the year before the study.

Researchers reviewed the body cam videos. They found that when officers used force, the suspect had made the first move, physically threatening the officer. According to the study, there were several incidents when officers without cameras were the initiators.

Along with monitoring police behavior, the cameras could help defuse potentially tense situations. The Phoenix Police Department received body-worn cameras through a research grant for smart policing. In a video interview with an Arizona State University professor, a precinct commander says he hopes the cameras have a "civilizing effect on those that we serve" and that they protect officers from "baseless allegations."

In the same video, another ASU professor says cameras would negatively affect policing. "There's been some concern," the professor says, "that it reduces police productivity because they're less interested in making stops and turning on their cameras."

Whatever the downsides, if there are any, the DPA and the DCOC agree that body-worn cameras would help the investigations of police shootings. When asked whether the DPA had calculated how much the cameras would cost, Pinkston says it had not but that the city could find the money: "What's the public's trust worth?"

Higgins says the DCOC is working with several groups and hopes to pressure the city into funding the cameras.

"It's so needed here in Dallas," he says.

Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.

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21 comments
Guesty
Guesty

What I think is interesting is that people who can't agree on anything agree on body cameras for police officers.  This tells me that both sides really believe their own "facts," even in the face of conflicting evidence. Officers really believe most police use of force is legit, and if you could just see what the officer saw, you would agree that the officer was in danger.  Protesters really believe that police regularly abuse their authority, using force when it is not required, or using brutal or even lethal force when less force is necessary.  They think if you just could see that the kid was unarmed, and while maybe a bit mouthy, you would know he was not a real danger to anyone.  

While cameras probably will address the most egregious situations, I expect both sides will be disappointed that it does not resolve the most contentious issues.  These situations are like Rorschach tests of racial and class issues--people see what they want to see.  What one person sees as a mere expression of deep-seeded frustration and distrust of the police built over years of harassment the other will see as aggression and a risk of violence by a person who refuses to sensibly submit to the orders of a peace officer.  People will still disagree, reasonably or unreasonably, about the circumstances it is appropriate to use lethal force (e.g. why not shoot an arm or a leg first? how can it ever be appropriate to shoot an unarmed person?).  And some people will refuse to accept the imposition of any risks on officers when more sensible approaches that deescalate situations would, in totality, result in fewer deaths, if that approach slightly increases the risks in individual situations.

In short, we argue about the "facts" surrounding specific events as a proxy for discussing the real and hard to resolve the more difficult issues.  Cameras might help resolve some of those facts, but they will not resolve the deep-seeded issues.    

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I know that, if I was a police officer, I would look at seeing if I could buy one for myself. That way, I would have a recording of every interaction I had.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

"There's been some concern," the professor says, "that it reduces police productivity because they're less interested in making stops and turning on their cameras."


If they were going to get out and bust someone's head, it's probably best that they don't stop.

SCamp2
SCamp2

Maybe we could use some money in the DA's forfeiture account to pay for cameras and other needed police equipment. Oh wait, he has already used it on lawsuits. Too bad the police are neglected...unless he wants to investigate them.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

" . . . a precinct commander says he hopes the cameras have a "civilizing effect on those that we serve" and that they protect officers from "baseless allegations." "


Whatever makes them feel better about it, I guess.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Notice that in the photo of the two West Midlands constables (as the police are referred to in England) are wearing clothing that makes them highly visible and approachable rather than the psuedo military or dark clothing that is worn by the American police.


This is part of the difference between police officers and law enforcement officers.

Greg820
Greg820

If the City of Dallas can find $875,000 to give to a fried chicken shack, surely they can find the resources to benefit their officers and citizens in a more healthy manner.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

"There's been some concern... because they're less interested in making stops and turning on their cameras."

Win-win.

Greg820
Greg820

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul I always thought that the khaki/brown uniforms appeared more approachable.  They also have to be far more comfortable than wearing black in the summer. 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

They can now under certain circumstances.  But think of the power that they have that they do not normally carry firearms.  If you misbehave, they will come down on you like a 16 ton weight (think Monty Python)

But then again, Brits are raised with being taught manners and what constitutes acceptable behavior.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@ScottsMerkin

I'm amazed a junkie high on smack could muster the energy to take a breath, much less a swing at anyone.

Greg820
Greg820

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @Greg820  I'm definately not a fan of the bug-eye sunglasses on cops.  Once again, a very standoffish piece of attire.  However, there is open sunshine in Britain for approximately 4 hours per year. . . 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@Greg820 

Yes and that 4 hours of sunshine occurs over about 3 months.

As someone once said: "You don't get a tan by standing in the English rain."

I have never been a fan of the bug eye glasses and skinhead look.

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