One of the first conversations I usually have with my clients that hire me for their criminal case here in Polk County usually involves something like, “get the body camera or dash camera footage; it will show you what happened.” Unfortunately, here in Polk County, there are no body cameras or dash cameras. Our Sheriff has made it abundantly clear that he does not support such technology.
However, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers released a report entitled “Policing Body Cameras: Policies and Procedures to Safety the Right of the Accused.” This report supports police agencies using such technology and makes several recommendations for police departments including:
· Having clear policies in place that establish when officers are to begin recording (not leaving it up to individual officers).
- · Recordings should be stored for specific time periods and long enough for the accused to support his or her defense.
- · Allowing the accused prompt access to the recordings.
- · Officers should not have access to the videos prior to preparing their reports.
- · Officers should not have access to the videos after encounters in order to bring additional charges.
This advice, and more, comes from legal scholars and criminal justice experts.
Larger cities across our country are beginning to come on board with body cameras and dash cameras. Unfortunately, there is no uniform set of rules for the use of the technology. Officers tend to not turn their body cameras on, in some circumstances, until after the event has taken place.
After the recent shooting of the Australian woman by a Minneapolis officer, the technology depends on officers turning on their devices immediately upon dispatch.
These cameras are not intended to catch officers’ bad behavior. In fact, this technology can protect officers from being unfairly accused. They can clear officers when officers are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.
If you are pulled over for a traffic stop, make sure you are respectful and cooperative while still maintaining your rights. Read my other blog posts on saying no to searches and videotaping the police.