Public Wants Police Body Cameras, Study Says

Roughly 60 percent of the public believes that police body cameras will help community/police relations, according to a report commissioned by a body camera developer.

by St. John Barned-Smith, Houston Chronicle / November 20, 2015
Shelby County Sheriff's Department SRO Joseph Fox displays the department's new body cameras that officers are now wearing on Oct. 15, 2014, at Southwind High School in Memphis, Tenn. Stan Carroll/The Commercial Appeal/TNS

(TNS) -- As city officials continue to scrutinize the Houston Police Department's plans to outfit their officers with body cameras, a national study has found a majority of Americans believe widespread implementation of the devices would improve relations between law enforcement and the public.

The 2015 Policing Perspectives Research Report, released Thursday and commissioned by Reveal, a body camera developer, found that 60 percent of Americans believed use of the devices would help soothe community-police relations.

Law enforcement agencies across the country are weighing using the devices or have already begun to equip their officers with them following a series of shootings of civilians by police over the last year that sparked protests and civil unrest.

Civil-rights groups and criminal justice reformers - and current law enforcement - say the devices would bring greater transparency to interactions between the police and the public, even as they have warned of logistical issues like data storage or privacy concerns.

Support for the devices cut across age groups. A majority of millennials, (57 percent,) and 66 percent of those 55 or older believed tensions would be reduced if body worn camera technology were implemented.

The report also found that about 16 percent of Americans incorrectly believe body cameras record for police officers' entire shifts and can't be switched off.

In Houston, city officials voted Wednesday to fund body-camera implementation among the city's police officers. On Thursday, City Council members will weigh whether footage from the cameras should be stored in-house or with a third party, which would cost more, but which proponents say would alleviate concerns about video tampering.

Thus far, HPD has equipped about 100 officers with the devices in a pilot program. Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson pledged about $1.9 million to help HPD and the Harris County Sheriff's Office equip their departments with the devices.

©2015 the Houston Chronicle Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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