Sponsored by

Conversations on Law Enforcement

Eye on Policing: How Cameras Change Law Enforcement

National Law Enforcement Museum’s Conversations on Law Enforcement series examined the use of body worn cameras around the nation.

On Tuesday, December 8, 2015, the National Law Enforcement Museum brought together law enforcement professionals and policy makers to discuss how body-worn cameras are changing policing. The panel moderator, Lindsay Miller Goodison, a Senior Research Associate for the Police Executive Research Forum, began the discussion by noting how body cameras have become for good or ill“ the centerpiece of the conversation on how to establish trust, transparency, and accountability” in the relationship between law enforcement and the community.

Lieutenant Bryan Grenon of the Seattle (WA) Police Department and Commander Marcus Jones of the Montgomery County (MD) Police Department shared their perspectives as law enforcement officers in different stages of implementing body-worn camera programs in their respective cities. Commander Jones, whose department is in the early stages of its pilot program, said that body-worn cameras “change the paradigm for officers.” Lt. Grenon, helped oversee Seattle’s six-month pilot program and is currently developing department policies for a full-scale body-worn camera deployment. He believed, “The challenge was working toward consensus on policy with officers and neighborhood groups.” Body-worn cameras are viewed by many community members as the obvious next step in law enforcement technology, but the challenge is finding the right balance between transparency, public safety needs, and the personal rights of victims, suspects, and law enforcement officers.

Watch video of the event.

Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, spoke about how the ACLU is deciphering this “most tangled and complicated issue.” Stanley wrote a policy paper for the organization stating their approval of body-worn cameras given certain parameters. Stanley said, “We don’t want to see extremes on either end of the spectrum.”

Stanley also said, “[There is] a lot of naiveté in the public. People think it is a silver bullet and it isn’t.” A sentiment that was echoed amongst all the panelists. Commander Jones said, “[The] public has to understand this is not a panacea” that will bring complete clarity in all interactions between law enforcement and the public. Dr. Michael White, a professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University, pointed out that there has not been enough research yet to determine the exact benefits of body-worn camera programs, saying, “Victims, witnesses, suspects, the parents of victims…we as researchers have not done a very good job at understanding what they think about [body-worn cameras].”

See photos of the event.

Eye on Policing

Body-worn camera programs and policies remain largely untested, and the public and law enforcement officers must wait to see their long term effects. But it is clear that they are not going away anytime soon. Commander Jones shared what he tells his officers when facing pushback about having to wearing a camera, “Everybody has a video on, so why not have your own camera telling your story.”