In recent years, there has been mounting tension and conflict between police departments and citizens, partly due to claims of brutality or failure to follow legal procedures. Unless there is a witness or a recording of the incident, it becomes a question of the citizen?s word against the officer?s. However, with the increasing use of video recording technology, these sorts of claims have been reduced. The most common is a camera mounted on the patrol car?s dashboard, giving it the common name dash cam. There is also the body cam, which is attached to the officer?s uniform; seventy-seven percent of surveyed officers said they feel a body cam is more effective, but they are also more expensive.
In 2012, there were approximately 780,000 police officers in America, and that number is expected to increase by more than 40,000 within a decade. Over 70% of state police and highway patrol vehicles have a dash camera. Government funding was made available in 2004 for the purchase of police car video systems ? more than 21 million dollars. However, there are still small, local police departments that do not have the budget for an in vehicle camera system much less body cameras. Yet the cost of lawsuits is so much higher, both financially and in reputation.
Besides the obvious prevention of ?my word against yours? issues and protection against bogus claims, there are other benefits to installing in car police video systems. First is the collection of admissible, irrefutable evidence and a reliable method of collecting data. In addition, the presence of a police cam and the foreknowledge that one is being recorded can influence behavior for the better on both the part of the officer and the citizen. It aids in the training and accountability of officers and reinforces professional conduct.
There have been instances of both wrongdoing and heroism from police and citizens alike, which have been recorded by dash cam, which have been important to legal and social situations. For instance, several police officers were caught in a lie when it was revealed that they had not done all they could to rescue three teens from drowning. Conversely, a police dash cam recorded an officer being attacked during a routine traffic stop; because of the recording, the attacker was caught and prosecuted. In addition, footage of officers going above and beyond to help a citizen, and vice versa, have also been recorded and used to give honor to those who deserve it.
So in spite of the cost, police car video cameras are essential to police work. There are affordable solutions, including some developed by police professionals themselves. The dash cam is becoming the standard expectation in today?s society; in fact, some people think it should be illegal for a patrol car to not have a dash cam. Because of the tension of recent situations, accountability and responsibility on the part of police officers is under great scrutiny, and the dash cam can help alleviate the issues associated with that situation.