Police in Chesapeake were some of the first in the nation to begin wearing cameras. Three years later, the Chief of police is looking at some very high-tech replacements and weighing the benefits of the cameras in general. According to the Pilot Online, complaints against police officers who wear the cameras are down and the department doesn’t regret their usage for a second.
In 2008 thanks to a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Chesapeake police were able to purchase 90 cameras from the VIEVU company out of Seattle. Designed by a former officer himself, these cameras are worn as part of the officer’s uniform and record any interactions that occur directly in front of him or her.
The cameras were given specifically to those officers who had frequent interactions with the public and those who had a history of complaints. What the department found was that complaints dropped and a good deal of complaints that were made were discredited by the cameras. While the Pilot Online subtly suggests most complaints are erroneous in the first place, there’s good reason to believe that the cameras put officers themselves on their best behavior.
Because of their seeming effectiveness, the department is looking at more complex cameras, with a longer recording time and the ability to add case notes to the video files. These cameras are made by Taser and the department says there is only one major problem—too many wires.
VIEVU cameras can record 4 hours and Taser cameras can hold 30. Looking a little RoboCop-esque, the Taser units also have LCD touch screen units that allow the officer to watch what he recorded. Interestingly, the report doesn’t mention if the officer himself would have editing power, something that would no doubt be a mistake.
The Pilot Online does mention these newer Taser units have an on/off switch. Many departments who have recently begun using cameras have barred officers from stopping the recording or having any ability to edit the video.
Police cameras do more than protect officers from bogus complaints, they protect the people from abuse of power by the police. But if the officers are allowed to stop recording, this isn’t a very trustworthy precautionary measure.
Also, it’s ironic that so many police agencies are moving towards individual cop-cams at the same time battling citizens equipped with cameras. Apparently, they only want to be behind the camera.
When you are accused of a criminal charge in Virginia, the likelihood that it was caught on any sort of recording device is pretty slim. However, even if it was, all hope is not lost. If you are charged with a crime and curious about how the evidence against you may affect the bottom line of your case, a consultation with an experienced attorney is in order.