Cop cameras are the latest initiative being brought forward in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. President Obama has pledged $263 million over three years to help equip law enforcement officials with “body cameras” – basically cameras worn by cops that record any peacekeeping event they’re involved with.
But can a cop camera stop an event like officer Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown? Probably not. But what it could do, says the president, is give courts a better idea of what happened in the wake of a contested shooting of an unarmed suspect.
So, how do cop cameras work?
There are currently two companies in the United States that make cop cameras. Vievu and Taser.Vievu has already sold more than 40,000 cameras to 3,900 police agencies, and Taser has sold 30,000 to 1,200 agencies according to Businessweek. President Obama wants to outfit another 50,000 cops across the country with cameras. According to the Vievu website, their most popular model clips to a vest, has 16GB of internal memory, and 12 hours of battery life. Taser’s model offers up to 13 hours or recording time and a 12 hour battery life.
Experts say that these two companies are set for a landmark windfall if the initiative goes through. When the companies were asked whether or not they could keep up with demand, both scoffed at the idea. Experts also say that the cop camera market is ripe for more competitors.
The idea is for cops to wear the cameras and have them on all the time. Proponents of cop cameras say the devices will protect not only civilians, but police officers themselves as they’ll have an accurate record of everything they do while on the job. If Darren Wilson would have been wearing a cop camera during his encounter with Michael Brown, the officer would have known that there would have been a document of that altercation, and perhaps he would have been slower to fire his weapon on an unarmed suspect. On the flip side, if Wilson was truly warranted in his actions against Michael Brown, then there would be a record of that as well.
A lot of people seem to be in support of the mandatory use of cop cameras for all police officers. A petition signed by over 155,000 Americans was presented on the White House website, and garnered a positive response. In that response, the White House determined that the benefits of mandatory cop cameras could provide “Evidence that both officers and civilians acted in a more positive manner when they were aware that a camera was present; new opportunities for effective training of law enforcement officers presented by the use of cameras; and useful evidence of interactions was often captured on video.”
What do you think? Could a cop camera have prevented what happened in Ferguson, or at least helped to shed light on the details of the shooting? Should all cops in the United States be forced to wear a cop camera on duty?
Sound off in the comments below.