How Are Police Body Cameras Funded in Pittsburgh?
Police body cameras have been discussed often in the news lately, following President Obama’s call for Congress to match funds for their use for local police departments across the country. Many people believe that the cameras would help advance much needed police reforms nationally, but thus far, a major roadblock to their implementation has been the high costs of equipping each officer with a camera and storing the resulting data.
Here in Pittsburgh, lawmakers have recognized the need to increase funding for police body cameras. Mayor Bill Peduto has already allocated $650,000 of this year’s budget to equip Pittsburgh’s entire police force with body cameras. His efforts are being supported by Pittsburgh’s new Chief of Police Cameron McLay who was sworn in last December. McLay has been setting up rules and trainings to continue an expansion of the use of body cameras around the city. Residents should see progressively more and more use of the cameras throughout 2015.
Despite the push to have all police use body cameras in Pittsburgh, people still debate their use. While often touted as the key to effective police reforms, body cameras are viewed by some to have a negative influence. The following are the top three pros and cons of police body camera use.
Pros of Police Body Camera Use
- Wearing body cameras could prevent police abuse. When police know that they are being watched, they are more likely to use restraint with people and respect the rights of citizens. In cities where these cameras are already being used, there has been a significant reduction in police abuse and excessive force.
- Officers who abuse their position can be held accountable, building the trust of communities. Many communities still feel resentful and distrustful of police. Having a real record of what has happened can let citizens understand what has happened. If there is video evidence abuse, there will be a better account of what really happened so necessary actions can be taken.
- Body cameras can record valuable evidence and witness testimony for trials. In the disorder of a crime scene, law enforcement arriving on the scene could miss important evidence as time passes. Sometimes evidence is not captured properly, quickly, or appropriately. If there is a video record of what officers heard and saw, key evidence can be saved.
Cons of Police Body Camera Use
- Body cameras could invade privacy. There are still many legal questions about privacy issues concerning both the officers themselves and anyone unwittingly filmed on a police body camera. It is not clear whether or not officers can film a residence or private property without a warrant, for example. There will need to be transparency about these issues.
- Policies about body camera use may not be followed, leading to an unfair bias against complaints made about unfilmed incidents. If officers can turn off cameras at any time, facts about incidents may be obscured. On the other hand, anything not filmed may reflect badly on officers unfairly. The limits of what is caught on film could bias the account of events and limit their effectiveness.
- Body cameras could intimidate witnesses and victims. Body cameras could be a serious problem in sensitive situations, such as domestic abuse or sexual assault cases. Body cameras are meant to help innocent citizens, so if images were made public without consent, a real privacy violation may have occurred.
As the debate continues, we will inevitably see more efforts to address all concerns about body cameras addressed. Here in Pittsburgh, though, body cameras look like they are here to stay. Hopefully, they will succeed in ensuring that every citizen’s rights are respected.
In the meantime, you will need to continue to count on other checks to police power to ensure your rights are respected. If you believe that you are a suspect for a crime or have been arrested, an experienced Pittsburgh criminal attorney is your best protection. Call Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation on your particular situation with a Pittsburgh criminal attorney. We will always fight for your rights.