In View: Commentary on the BWC Policy Report on Civil and Human Rights

Response to the BWC Policy Report of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Michael D. White, Ph.D., Arizona State University & BWC TTA Co-Director

This week the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn released a scorecard that evaluates the civil rights safeguards of police body-worn camera (BWC) programs in 50 U.S. cities. The Leadership Conference scorecard rates BWC policy on 8 criteria that are directly related to citizen rights and citizen privacy. We read their report with interest, as several of the agencies in their report have received funding through the Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA) BWC Policy and Implementation (PIP) program. We also share their concerns regarding the complex, sometimes competing goals of BWC programs with regard to transparency, privacy, and public safety. The BWC Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) team for BJA's PIP program has also created a policy scorecard, though ours differs both in terms of scope and purpose. The BWC TTA scorecard is much more comprehensive than the Leadership Conference scorecard, as the TTA scorecard rates policy across 11 different areas encompassing 45 specific policy issues. Seven of the eight criteria on the Leadership Conference scorecard are also on our scorecard (we do not assess biometric technologies). Seventeen of the policy issues on our scorecard are mandatory, meaning a funded agency must cover those issues in their policy in order to access their full funding. The BWC TTA scorecard also differs in purpose. Our scorecard is not designed to be prescriptive on specific issues. Rather, it simply rates the comprehensiveness of the policy. The position of BJA and the BWC TTA team is that directionality of policy issues should be determined locally as part of a collaborative discussion between law enforcement leaders and their stakeholders, both internal and external to the police department. We believe the Leadership Conference report makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing national dialogue over BWCs, their potential impacts and consequences.

Michael D. White is a Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, and is Associate Director of ASU’s Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety. He is also the Co-Director of Training and Technical Assistance for the Bureau of Justice Assistance Body-Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Program. He received his Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from Temple University in 1999. Prior to entering academia, Dr. White worked as a deputy sheriff in Pennsylvania.

This project was supported by Grant No. 2015-DE-BX-K002 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justiceand Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.