Working as a police officer is more stressful and demanding than ever before. Regardless of your perspective on policing and the challenges we’ve seen at the national level, we all agree that more transparency and openness is good for all. Hence, we believe the time has come to assist our law enforcement officers by wearing body cameras on duty.
In today’s “hot take” culture, we’ve all seen the comments and clickbait headlines on social media. Many people quickly draw conclusions about a particular official’s actions based on their own preconceived notions about law enforcement. The public is ready to judge or acquit before all the details are known. While body cameras are not a “panacea”, it is clear that we need hard evidence to back up the facts.
We spoke to officers from the Newark Police Department, our prosecutors, and some members of the administration. Everyone agrees – the time for our officers to wear body cameras is now.
The use of body cameras enables us to improve the safety of officers and obtain hard evidence that can be used when our officers are in challenging and stressful situations. The cameras create evidence that can be used in court. These videos provide a factual representation of what happened and what the officer saw at the scene. Camera footage can be used to help convict a criminal or to confirm the story of a person, be it the story of a civil servant or a citizen. And, of course, it can be used to protect the lives and livelihoods of innocent people.
There are fringe benefits too. Body cameras help instill public confidence in the police and have been found to encourage more courtesy towards officers. Knowing that everything is being recorded gives everyone an incentive to show their best behavior – on both sides of the camera. Video recordings can also help resolve complaints against officials quickly and reduce administrative burdens. And of course camera material can be used as a training opportunity for our officers.
Acquiring the cameras and the storage space for storing video material is associated with costs. And nobody enjoys it when every second of their job is filmed and recorded. However, the positives certainly outweigh the negatives. Body cameras are an incredibly useful way to objectively capture a more complete representation of what our officers see in the course of their day-to-day duties.
It’s time the Newark Police Department put in place a body camera usage policy and we will 100% support it. Please help us encourage our administration to implement this program quickly.
Newark City Councilors, Jonathan Lang, R-5th, and Jeff Rath, R-3rd, wrote this for The Advocate.