Many police departments within the United States and around the world have updated their policies in recent years to require all law enforcement personnel to wear body cameras and have them recording during work hours.
What are body cameras?
Officers in some places will wear a small video camera near their upper body that is supposed to recreate their perspective while on duty. This practice is sometimes referred to as body worn video. Each department will have their own policies regarding exactly how officers should use the devices, but they are always meant to create some kind of objective record.
When a viewer sees the footage later, they will essentially see everything that the officer did during their shift in a format that adequately recreates the situation.
Uses of video evidence
Video evidence of police as they are actually in the streets and working has proven to be the most effective way to either show that police misconduct really did occur, or exonerate innocent officers after a complaint.
Just about every police brutality lawsuit that has resulted in a large settlement or verdict for the victim has been due to indisputable video evidence of some kind of police misconduct. Once the public sees an officer abusing their authority and harming someone on a video recording, there is nothing that can be done to explain away this sort of conduct. Local prosecutors have even brought criminal charges against some officers in instances where they have acted in an indefensible way. Lesser forms of evidence such as witness testimony and photographs can be important, but video captured from a body camera or surveillance is usually the best proof in these kinds of cases.
Body camera footage can also become a deterrent to officers who are tempted to abuse their authority. They will know that if they are captured on video they will eventually be caught, or if they attempt to turn off the camera or otherwise hide their actions, their superiors will know something is wrong. Police departments have been known to update their procedures due to review of video evidence, as this creates a record that may help the department’s administration diagnose problems with certain actions that may prove to be ineffective or dangerous in the field.
Either way, video evidence is an important way of preserving the truth and making public employees accountable for their behavior.
Obtaining body camera footage
When an incident of police misconduct is captured on a body camera, it is important to retain a lawyer as soon as possible and make a formal request for a copy of the footage. Because departments stand to lose tax dollars and get caught up in scandals when an officer is caught doing something wrong, there is a tendency for evidence to be lost or misplaced for dubious reasons. Making an effort to get this evidence as soon as possible can help prevent this from happening.
Contact a lawyer regarding an incident of police misconduct
If you believe body camera footage may be relevant to a police brutality case, it is recommended to contact a local lawyer in your area. The listings on USAttorneys.com provide information that helps victims find a legal professional in every state in the country.