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As Ferguson Police Don Cameras, Civil Libertarians Stress Limits

Criminal Justice

In Ferguson, Cameras a Focal Point

Military-grade vehicles, assault rifles, and riot gear are not the only technologies owned by the Ferguson police. They also have “a stock of body-worn cameras, but have yet to deploy them to officers,” reports the Wall Street Journal. Hopefully, the cameras will come out of storage soon.

Yesterday, Ferguson city leaders wrote that they were committed to securing (and, we assume, deploying) dash and vest cameras for its police force. This isn’t the first time body-worn cameras have been proposed to help ease tensions between police and the communities they serve. For example, in 2013, a federal district court judge, in ruling the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional, ordered that a body-worn camera program begin in New York.

Body-worn cameras have not yet been systematically studied, but anecdotal evidence is positive. For example, in Rialto, California, the entire police force wears small cameras. In the first year following the cameras’ introduction, “the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%.”

Ferguson police should be using more of the right kind of technology: technology that promotes accountability. And they should stop taking the same from journalists and citizens.

But we must also acknowledge that technology itself will never be enough. Ferguson police have already reportedly removed their badges and nametags and refused to identify themselves to citizens. In the same way, body-worn could be removed or turned off. Ultimately, a range of policies must be established and followed.

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