The benefits of body cameras on police officers are clear: A year-long study in Rialto, California showed a reduction of the rate of use-of-force incidents of 60% and an 88% reduction in complaints. Studies have shown that complaints drop dramatically when police officers are wearing cameras, both because of police conduct and because suspects behave better when they know they’re being recorded. It’s common sense. Everyone is going to act differently if they think what they’re saying or doing can be played back in a courtroom months later.
There are 18,000 different local law enforcement agencies, from the smallest town’s to the NYPD. Each agency is subject to its own budget, leadership, and regulations. Nationally, there are thousands of decision makers each balancing different interests and budgetary constraints, making widespread adoption difficult.
It would cost approximately $400 million to equip all 1.1 million US police officers with body-worn cameras (current costs are approximately $350 apiece, not including data storage costs and maintenance).
Approximately 400 to 1,000 Americans get shot and killed per year by police (the stats aren’t clearly kept, which is its own massive problem), some of which may be avoidable. Additionally, police departments receive thousands of complaints and lawsuits per year. Cameras would save many municipalities money by reducing legal costs defending against complaints, from the frivolous to the legitimate. This expense line is massive—the NYPD spent $136 million on legal settlements for complaints about police misconduct in 2010 alone. If cameras reduced this amount by any percentage they’d easily pay for themselves. The same is true for other cities around the country. Cameras would not only save lives and reduce incidents but they’d save cities millions in legal costs.
As one company that manufactures cameras puts it: “Made for cops by cops. Prove the truth.”
Police officers do a dangerous job every day and deserve our support. Having a camera will help both the public and the police officer resolve complaints. It’s the 21st century and it’s now possible to equip police officers with more advanced equipment than ever before. We should invest in making our police officers as effective as possible while truly being servants and protectors of the communities they serve.
Problems to be Solved
- Police officers have dozens of interactions each day that would benefit from being recorded.
- Public trust
- Improve transparency and police work
As President, I will…
- Authorize federal funding to pay for a body camera for every officer in every police department in the country.
- Have the DOJ compile accurate composite measurements, including from private sources, of police-related incidents and deaths to establish baseline rates.
- Provide federal funding for training of local police officers in the latest techniques.
- Encourage community-based policing and reward departments for a combination of low complaints and continued efficacy.
- Re-establish the ban on distributing surplus unnecessary military-level artillery gear to police departments.
- Invest in new non-lethal weaponry that can be used to de-escalate conflicts at range and handprint signature guns so that weapons can only be used by their officers (‘he reached for my gun’ will no longer apply).