California police use of body cameras cuts violence and complaints

California police use of body cameras cuts violence and complaints

The occupant was said to be violent, so officer Carlos Ramirez approached the apartment warily. A dank smell wafted from inside. Ramirez bristled with body armour, radio, gun and Taser, but before knocking on the door he adjusted just one piece of equipment: a tiny camera on his collar.

“When you know you’re being watched you behave a little better. That’s just human nature,” said Farrar. “As an officer you act a bit more professional, follow the rules a bit better.”

Video clips provided by the department showed dramatic chases on foot – you can hear the officer panting – and by car that ended with arrests, and without injury. Complaints often stemmed not from operational issues but “officers’ mouths”, said the chief. “With a camera they are more conscious of how they speak and how they treat people.”

The same applied to the public; once informed they were being filmed, even drunk or agitated people tended to become more polite, Farrar said. Those who lodged frivolous or bogus complaints about officers tended to retract them when shown video of the incidents. “It’s like, ‘Oh, I hadn’t seen it that way.'”

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