In what seems to be a response to the unarmed killing of a teenager in Missouri this past week, the Cincinnati police department has announced that officers in District 3 will be equipping their uniforms with personal cameras.
District 3 officers were chosen for this "pilot program" due to the high crime activity in district 3 and the ample opportunities to assess the camera's effectiveness. The hope is that these cameras will substantially increase the safety of both the officers and the citizens with whom the officers interact.
Currently the only means to see what goes on between an officer and a citizen is the dash cam that is located in the police cruiser. However, these cameras provide very little evidence of what officers see in dangerous situations and in the every day duties that take place outside of the vehicle. The department has expressed hope that this will increase the transparency between the department and the public.
Weighing Concerns over Cameras and the Right to Privacy
Some questions and concerns over the camera's use do arise however. While the American Civil Liberties Union has given their full support of the cameras, some citizens may feel that their individual rights to privacy are being infringed. The department asserts that there is not "a reasonable expectation of privacy" when a citizen interacts with an officer.
But what if a situation arises in which the citizen, who is merely talking with an officer as a concerned citizen and not as a suspect, reveals confidential information that is later used against the citizen? This could lead to a public that is wary of police interaction and afraid of what might be recorded and shown to a third party.
In light of these possible privacy concerns, the overall value of having an officer equipped with the device would surely be beneficial. Studies have shown that when a person is being recorded, their behavior improves. Putting the police department under the scrutiny of the public eye surely will help officers who may have abused their power.
Take for instance the case of Michael Brown, the unarmed Missouri teen who was shot dead by police. The police claim Mr. Brown attempted to grab the officer's gun, while the witness claims that his friend was attempting to surrender. Instances like these are unfortunate, and do nothing but further divide a community which may already be cautious of those who are supposed to protect them. Had a camera been used the day that Mr. Brown was killed, there would be no discord between the police and the public and the guilty party could be brought to justice.
At Bleile & Dawson, our Cincinnati criminal defense lawyers have defended clients against criminal charges for a total of more than 20 years. If you have been wrongfully accused of a crime in the State of Ohio or the Commonwealth of Kentucky we are ready to help you fight your charges. Call our firm today to discuss your options in a completely confidential consultation.