CRF Blog

Investigation of 5 cities finds body cameras usually help police

by Bill Hayes

A Fusion Investigation of 5 cities finds body cameras usually help police.

A three-month Fusion investigation that reviewed hundreds of pages of records from five police departments with body camera programs reveals that the way body cameras are used usually serve police more than citizens charging misconduct. And in the data from two cities provided to Fusion, there was little evidence police body cameras reduced police involved shootings or use of force incidents.

One key problem: officers control the record button. They decide when to turn on and off the cameras and have little to fear when violating department policies about recording, Fusion’s analysis found. In many use of force incidents, camera footage doesn’t exist, is only partially available, or can’t be found. And when body cameras are turned on, the footage usually favors the officer’s account, according to police, law enforcement experts and public defenders we spoke with.

“This is one of our biggest concerns — the promise of this technology as a police oversight mechanism will be undermined if individual officers can manipulate what is taped and what isn’t,” ACLU Senior Policy Analyst, Jay Stanley told Fusion. [more]