In the era of Law & Order, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and other television crime dramas, the public now expects clear and compelling recordings that document the commission of an alleged crime. At a minimum, they expect to see recordings of the arrival of the police on the scene and footage of the person charged with committing the crime. Body-worn camera (BWC) recordings dwell at the intersection of television drama and real life. But despite the popular imagination, BWC footage is not always the end-all and be-all of a case.
Upon learning that a local law enforcement agency was preparing to deploy body-worn cameras (BWCs), we as prosecutors had to wonder what this new evidence would mean to our presentation of cases in court. Would it mean more or less work? More or fewer trials? Better trial outcomes?
We are learning that the implementation of body worn camera (BWC) technology involves more than just the introduction of new technology into law enforcement. The implementation of body-worn cameras is complex and should involve other justice stakeholders such as prosecutors and defense attorneys. Some of the more important issues for police agencies as the implement their BWC programs are the sharing and transferring of video footage while maintaining a chain of custody, accurate resource planning, and understanding how to best use BWC footage for screening cases and/or charges.
A Police Perspective
Implementing body-worn cameras in a police agency has an impact on virtually every key aspect of police operations, including training, investigations, community relations, resource allocation, and more. With the growing adoption of body-worn cameras, the need for effective law enforcement training is paramount to help ensure that officers have the necessary knowledge and tools to confront the difficult tasks they encounter on a daily basis. The following considerations and resources will serve as helpful information in support of this challenge.
Body worn cameras are often regarded as the solution to improving strained police-community relationships and increasing police accountability and transparency. While BWCs play an important part in police reform efforts, they are just one piece to the puzzle. Implementing BWCs within a law enforcement agency is a complex endeavor with many different facets that agencies must take into consideration to ensure that the desired outcomes are achieved.
It is generally precieved that the benefits of BWCs include the ability to increase transparency and police legitimacy, improve behavior among both police officers and citizens, and reduce citizen complaints and police use of force. Less established in the literature, however, is the value of BWCs to aid in the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of intimate partner violence (IPV) offenders.This article examines the effect of pre- and post-camera deployment on a number of outcomes related to arrest, prosecution, and conviction of intimate partner violence offenders.