Lapel Cameras for Santa Cruz County Sheriffs?
Last Friday the Santa Cruz County Sheriffs office began a trial period of testing wearable cameras while on duty. Commonly referred to as “lapel cameras” or “body cams,” these little devices are attached to the front of an officer’s uniform and record everything they do. The cameras are meant to promote a greater sense of public trust.
A growing number of American cities have adopted use of lapel cameras in just the past year, mainly in response to the national outcry for greater police accountability following multiple high profile cases of unarmed African American men being shot. Police responses to the protests that broke out afterward were also scrutinized nationally, and many felt the police acted inappropriately.
Santa Cruz has also had its fair share of debate over growing concerns about the militarization of police. Since last December the City Council has constantly faced crowded public meetings over the acceptance of a Department of Homeland Security grant to purchase an armored rescue vehicle, known by its producer, Lenco, as a BearCat.
A recent study of the use of lapel cameras in Rialto California has shown a direct relationship between police officer behavior and wearable cameras. The randomized controlled study found that public complaints against officers dropped 88 percent, and the use of force by the officers who wore the cameras dropped 60 percent.
However, some voices have called for more evaluation of lapel cameras in the interest of public privacy. These opponents are concerned about the continuous recording of public life, and think there should be clear guidelines about when a lapel camera should be used. They are fundamentally against the dichotomy of having to either record everything or record nothing.
So what do you think, should the Santa Cruz County Sheriffs office completely adopt use of lapel cameras? Are there legitimate concerns over public privacy, and what about officer privacy? Is there a way to balance these needs while still fostering public trust and creating a mechanism of accountability? Vote and comment below:
Adopt Department Wide Use of Lapel Cameras for Santa Cruz Sheriffs
This initiative would require that all members of the Santa Cruz County Sheriffs Deputies wear lapel cameras while on active duty or patrol in a situation where they are likely to interact with members of the public.