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Portable Video Cameras- A Helpful Fashion Trend, or a Defendant’s Worst Nightmare?

Some cities have started outfitting their police officers with miniature video cameras to wear while on duty, that look like a radio. The purpose of these cameras is to videotape their encounters with suspects to be used as evidence at trial against the suspect, and also to refute any claims of police coercion or brutality. There is a heated debate about whether these cameras will result in more benefits to a defendant or whether the use of them will be more damaging.
As a benefit:

  • The video footage could be introduced to contradict testimony by a police officer that is inaccurate or untruthful.
  • The video can demonstrate an individuals’ tone and demeanor when reiterating what was said
  • The video can give a judge or jury a first-hand more clear picture of what occurred rather than being filtered through the eyes of a witness who may have a bias or personal motive to portray the story in a certain light

Detriments:

  • Potentially embarrassing images or charges can be immortalized in digital format. We would hope that the videos would not get leaked or end up in the wrong place, but once the image is created, there is a chance it could always become available to the public somehow.
  • The intrusion into personal privacy when every encounter, no matter how insignificant, is immortalized into videotape format. Not to mention how much other conduct or conversations could accidentally be recorded even though not the target of any investigation. It seems a bit Big Brother…
  • The prosecution does not have to rely on officer’s memories or reports about the defendant’s symptoms of impairment, conduct, or statements. They have hard evidence which can bolster the credibility of other unrecorded testimony by an officer that may be untruthful or inaccurate.

What do YOU think? Have you seen these cameras being used, and do you think it is a good idea?

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