“Watching the Watchmen: Best Practices for Police Body Cameras”

“Body cameras undoubtedly gather valuable evidence of police misconduct, and although research on the effects of body cameras is comparatively limited there are good reasons to believe that they can improve police behavior. However, without the right policies in place the use of police body cameras could result in citizens’ privacy being needlessly violated.” Storage and release policies for video footage need to be carefully considered ahead of time as well. [Matthew Feeney, Cato]


  • Certainly body cams can and do reduce police misconduct. While the article focuses on that aspect, it also fails to make any correlation between the justification of police action or barely examine the role of body cams in a reduction of complaints against police.

    If the theory is that cameras make police hesitant to do something wrong, doesn’t that same hesitancy crop up when citizens see a body cam on an officer? Are people more or less likely to misbehave or lie about an incident when they are being recorded?

    For example, and it is a good example, University of North Texas Dean Dorothy Bland was stopped by the police in her neighborhood. She wrote a long op-ed to the Dallas Morning News claiming she was stopped because she was black and wearing a hoodie in a affluent white neighborhood. Her account of the encounter with the police fed into the narrative of police animus and racial profiling. She even noted that she had gone to the Mayor’s house to complain and asked him if “she looked like a criminal.”

    The incident was recorded on the police dash cam. The officers explain why they stopped her – both for breaking the law and her own safety. They laughed with her and advised her to walk on the other side of the road so she would be safe.

    Bland has now stop responding to requests for comments now that the camera showed she wasn’t telling the truth about her interaction with the police.


    Body cams / dash cams not only protect good citizens from bad cops, but also protect good cops from bad citizens. I don’t believe the cited article gives the idea that we need to protect good cops enough due.

  • Much of the article was about how the video taken by the body cameras is handled and stored. I do not believe that the Police or the local prosecutor should be responsible for controlling the video. I’ve seen where dash camera video has conveniently gone missing or the camera had malfunctioned leaving only the officer’s word being accepted about what happened. There is also the the security of the video to be concerned about. Just look at the TSA employees grabbing images from the full body scanners.

    Another thing to be concerned about is the Police placing permanent cameras out in public, or monitoring private security cameras. A club that I belong to installed cameras inside and outside for security reasons. Our local Police said to just give them the ISP and they would be happy to monitor them for us.