Since an officer in my police department was brought under suspicion of perjury for statements he made when he thought his police body camera was turned off, some of our constituents have been adamant in calling for a policy that police officers cannot turn off their body cameras at all while on duty. They feel this will be an effective way to detect and deter misconduct and corruption.
It is a deeply flawed idea, and we have been clear in our opposition to it.
There should be a good discussion about when police ought to be required to activate cameras, but the idea that they should always have them on is untenable for both the police and the community.
- Police body cameras that cannot be turned off as a matter of policy will capture the private conversations of anyone in earshot of the camera.
- They will create surveillance footage of people in private and semi-private places going about their lives as police officers move about them.
- They will capture confidential conversations with people who want to tell the police where the criminals are on their block.
- They will capture the police discussing the lawful but sensitive tactics they use to investigate criminals and apprehend them.
- They will capture privileged conversations with attorneys, and the identities of child crime victims or people in states of compromised dignity.
- They will capture footage of cops going to the bathroom, eating lunch, and having cell phone conversations with their loved ones or getting a call from the doctor.