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A Guide for Implementing Body Cameras for PoliceResearch Paper

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¶ … police officers using body cameras. It focuses on ethical issues regarding their implementation, including a comprehensive Code of Ethics based on recommendations of the ACLU as well as considerations of cost, civilian rights, citizens' concerns, police officer benefits, issues of accountability, storage, maintenance, and access rights. It provides guidance regarding the proper storage time, the likely cost of data storage, whether cloud vs. physical storage is best, and how long data should be stored. It also gives recommendations regarding whether officers should have control of the cameras once they are activated. This guide recommends using cameras that are remote controlled so that they cannot be tampered with. This will actually benefit both officers and citizens as cameras are expected to reduce the rate of violent interactions as well as complaints among citizens who interact with officers. Questions of privacy and entering homes as well as relating to abuse victims are discussed.

Implementation of Body Cameras

Introduction

Police officers around the U.S. are coming under increasing pressure to be more accountable for their actions on the streets. One solution is to have officers wear body cameras (Liebman, 2015). This ensures that every movement, action, spoken word, and interaction off officers is recorded for future reference in case something should go wrong. However, the implementation of body cameras as comes with certain risks. Some view it as an invasion of privacy: for example, if they are involved in an interaction with a police officer and that interaction is recorded, they are concerned that the recording is an encroachment into their personal life; another concern is what happens to the data once it is delivered from the camera -- who stores it? What if it gets out into the public domain? Especially if footage is compromising, it could spell ruin for an individual's future, barring them access to jobs should potential bosses see something they don't like. Thus, while on the one hand body cameras could be a solution to police accountability, they could also pose a threat to social stability. In this respect there are several ethical dilemmas that should be considered with regard to implementing body cameras. Those dilemmas range from questions of privacy to consent for recording, content ownership, data protection, access to data, and the overall costs and benefits to society. This paper will examine in minute detail the implications of each of these dilemmas and how they would be practically approached in a real-world implementation program.

The stakeholders involved in this issue include citizens, police officers, government officials (who oversee the police and approve budgets), and body camera manufacturers and data storage providers. Every stakeholder has a different concern in this issue, with some, such as storage providers, simply approaching from a profit-based perspective, while others, such as officers and officials, approach it from a safety and accountability-based perspective (Jennings, Fridell, Lynch, 2014). Citizens on the other hand may approach it from binary positions, such as a concern-based perspective or a support-based perspective.

Ownership of data recorded on body cameras of the body cameras themselves is the first ethical issue to encounter. As police forces are a publically-funded branch of local, state and federal governments, it might be argued that cameras and the data stored on them belong to the public. But this argument, once extended, would suggest that other items of police forces also belong to the public -- such as vehicles, weapons, uniforms and offices, which is not the case. Ownership does, however, place constraints on the force itself: it must maintain and oversee all the cameras and all the footage that is captured by these cameras, and this can add substantially to the overhead of the implementation. Considering that forces are already tasked with cutting budgets, implementing body cameras would surely add overhead rather than reduce it.

Implementation Plan and Process

According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice, body camera program implementation plans should address six main areas: video capture, viewing, use, release, storage, and audits/controls (Implementation, 2015). Training is to be provided in order to ensure that video capture is performed correctly (this includes wearing the camera in the correct manner), times and places to view footage is regulated, usage of the footage is overseen and granted by special permission, release of footage is done only by special right, storage is secure, and controls are regularly audited.

Data Protection

Data protection is the number one ethical concern alongside privacy and invasive search concerns. While there has been no Court ruling against body cameras as being invasive of the public, it may be presented as a going concern among departments. However, the primary issue at this time is data protection: this means storing data recorded on police body cameras, which can reach tens of thousands of hours per week.

Various firms will store this data for fees, and big-volume storage providers like VERIPATROL offer a cloud-based storage system for this task. Fees can be costly, however, and this is one concern that must be faced, as plans can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per month for instant upload to the cloud, meaning that new a budget will need to be produced in order to make room for this cost (National Institute of Justice, 2016).

Storage: Cloud vs. Physical

Whether to use cloud storage or physical storage is almost not even an issue, because there is simply far too much data that will be generated that physical space can accommodate. Cloud storage is really the only feasible solution; plus the instant upload feed, which essentially streams the footage from the camera to the cloud, reduces time and cost associated with downloading data after every shift.

Access to Data

The biggest ethical challenge presented by a body camera program is protecting the privacy of both community members and employees. Unlike most surveillance methods, body cameras would capture audio and visual data (Miller et al., 2014). vThey would also go everywhere an officer goes, giving them the ability to record in much more personal spaces than traditional cameras typically have access. Thus while access to data is typically thought of in terms of who can see the footage once it is captured, from the concerned citizen's perspective access to data may be thought of in terms of how much access to their lives or person the body camera has access to. Recording a scene, for instance, is different than an officer witnessing a scene because a camera creates a record that can be re-visited, repeatedly analyzed, and shared directly with others. Body cameras would therefore create a constant invasion of privacy.

Regulating this concern therefore should be an educative measure adopted by police departments so the public is well-informed of the reason for body cameras and that at no time is the footage to be used for any other purpose than to support police accountability. There should be no question of footage or data being hacked, stolen, sold to proprietary vendors, and given to third parties. To do so would be in violation of community standards, police force ethics, and legal prohibitory models regarding the storage/containment of evidence. Data is to be collected and safeguarded to the same extent that evidence is, though it is not to be considered as evidence against civilians.

Administrator conflicts of interest

Administrator conflicts of interest may be an issue that is also brought up by concerned citizens. This should be addressed by developing a special categorization for administrators along with a certified screening process that allow permits the most trustworthy individuals to oversee the control and auditing of body camera data storage. Administrators will be selected from within the department and joined by a civilian independent administrator so as to ensure security and adequate oversight.

Process for gaining access

The process for gaining access will be through special request that must go through secure channels from requester to administrator to Chief and on to council. This request may also be given only by Judge, just as subpoenas are given. In fact, gaining access should be considered in the same manner as a subpoena -- that is, there should be given a Judge ample evidence as to why this access is needed, what it is intended to show, what it will be used for, how long it will be given, and so on.

Acceptable use

Acceptable use should be considered as part of evidence-based gathering strategies in order to provide accountability for officers. If disputes arise about what happened at a scene, the body camera can be accessed through the proper channels so that the dispute can be settled in a positive and affirmative manner.

Criteria for release to media or public or civilians

The criteria for release to media, public or civilians is to be stringent and under no circumstances is it to be released while an investigation is ongoing. If charges are brought then this material is to be considered as evidence, and the availability of this evidence to the public will… [END OF PREVIEW]

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