Law Offices of Christie A. Leary P.C.

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The tragic controversy currently unfolding in Ferguson is making many civil rights activists, legal experts and lawmakers question whether law enforcement officers should be broadly required to wear body cameras. The tapes contained within these cameras could prove invaluable to individuals compelled to mount a criminal defense in the wake of potentially unjust charges. They could also serve as a deterrent against police brutality and illegal conduct. However, they could also inspire serious privacy concerns.

As the nation begins to debate the virtues and concerns associated with these devices, it may be worth considering how they are functioning within a community that outfits its entire police force with body cameras. According to The Wall Street Journal, the cameras that this police force carries tape every interaction which occurs between officers and residents. Within the first year of camera use, citizen complaints against the force declined by a staggering 88 percent and use of officer force declined by 60 percent.

The privacy concerns associated with these cameras are real. As are officer concerns that certain aspects of public safety could be compromised if every interaction between officers and non-officers is taped. However, the statistics linked to this single community are astonishing. Not only are the cameras protecting officers from unjust complaints, they are inspiring a reduction in the use of force and are protecting citizens from unjust protection by law enforcement.

They are likely also helping to bridge trust between officers and the community. This trust has been broken in Ferguson. Perhaps cameras can help to restore it both within that community and in communities across the nation.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "What Happens When Police Officers Wear Body Cameras," Christopher Mims, August 18, 2014

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