While they are not a cure-all, body cameras and cell phone video have illuminated cases of police violence and have shown to be important tools for holding officers accountable. Nearly every case where a police officer was charged with a crime for killing a civilian in 2015 relied on video evidence showing the officer's actions.
Require the use of body cameras - in addition to dashboard cameras - and establish policies governing their use to:
- record all interactions with subjects who have not requested to be kept anonymous
- notify subjects that they have the option to remain anonymous and stop recording/storing footage if they choose this option
- allow civilians to review footage of themselves or their relatives and request this be released to the public and stored for at least two years
- require body and dash cam footage to be stored externally and ensure district attorneys and civilian oversight structures have access to the footage
- require police departments, whenever they want to deny a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for body or dash cam footage, to prove in court that the footage constitutes a legitimate FOIA exemption (Ex: Illinois House Bill 4355)
- permanently delete footage after 6 months if this footage hasn't been specifically requested to be stored
- include a disciplinary matrix clearly defining consequences for officers who fail to adhere to the agency's body camera policy.
- consider whether cameras or mandated footage are tampered with or unavailable as a negative evidentiary factor in administrative and criminal proceedings
- prevent officers from reviewing footage of an incident before completing initial reports, statements or interviews about an incident
- prohibit footage from being used in tandem with facial recognition software, as fillers in photo arrays, or to create a database or pool of mugshots. (Ex: Baltimore PD Body Cam Policy)
- update privacy laws to protect civilians from having video or audio recordings released publicly that do not contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, discharge of a weapon or death.
(Ex: ACLU Model Policy)
The Right to Record Police
Ban police officers from taking cell phones or other recording devices without a person's consent or warrant and give people the right to sue police departments if they take or destroy these devices. (Ex: Colorado Law)
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