California City's Clever Plan to Curb Police Abuse


Thanks to modern technology, police abuse is now making the news more and more. Many cities including Rialto, Calif., might have found a way to taper this trend: Put cameras on policemen to order record their actions.

Created by Taser International, famous for their electrical shock guns, this cop camera device has been used since 2009. It is now so small that it can be worn on sunglasses or a cop's lapel. At first, many cops, especially the older ones, saw the system like a Big Brother watching your every move. But in Scottsdale, Ariz., fake accusations from a motorcyclist whose interrogation was filmed, changed many minds. In Fort Worth, Texas, some cops are so eager to have the cameras that they buy them. They cost about $1,000 a piece.

This may seem expensive, especially in big cities with many cops. But considering the substantial amount of money spent compensating for police brutality, the system might pay for itself. According to Paul Figueroa, the assistant police chief in Oakland, it is an investment worth every penny from a liability point of view.

He is certainly right considering the Rialto experiment with the cameras, which started in 2012. There has been, compared to the previous year, a staggering 88% decrease in complaints against cops and a 60% decrease in cops using force on the job. All Rialto cops have been wearing a cam since last September.

However, not everyone is happy with the system, especially those in New York City. Not only has Bloomberg sworn to fight the obligation that his cops wear the body cams after the stop-and-frisk policy was declared unconstitutional, but a union representing the NYPD says the money would be better spent hiring more policemen.

There are also concerns about privacy and rights. If cops control when the camera is activated, its voids its purpose entirely. Having the camera on at all times, on the contrary, might be a big source of stress. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has addressed these concerns recently. It sees this system as a way for citizens to monitor the government and its agents, not the other way around.

To ensure the effectiveness of the cameras, the ACLU suggests employing a strict penalty against cops for turning off or tampering the cams. To ensure the cops' privacy, it suggests that the videos be deleted promptly, unless the footage is used in courts. The footage would never be given the media.

If used as the ACLU suggests, these body cams could restore the confidence of people who distrust the police. It's a win-win situation; cop-haters won't be as prompt to accuse an innocent of wrong doing, and cops will think twice before using their extraordinary powers.