Finally, a step in the right direction.
In an effort to reduce use-of-force complaints, Bellingham Police officers are now wearing cameras to record audio and video of their interactions with the public. The department is among the first to use the new equipment that now allows citizens to see crimes from an officer’s perspective.
Officers are wearing two cameras — one on their chests and another mounted on collars, glasses or hats.
The Bellingham Police Department has provided officers with guidelines for when they should activate the cameras. Some include traffic stops, arrests, or situations involving aggressive suspects.
Police don’t need to ask for permission to record if they’re in public but they will tell you if the camera is on. However, if an officer is in a private residence he or she is required to get the homeowner’s permission to record.
My opinion? Excellent decision. My hat is off to the Bellingham Police for making a pro-active decision toward this effort. I strongly believe having body cameras makes EVERYONE — both cops and citizens — behave better. even better, the cameras should provide evidence of whether police misconduct happens in some cases. Very good.
My only concern is the privacy issues. Will police will secretly turn these cameras on when searching people’s houses? And if so, can the police attempt to use the surveillance video captured by the cameras as evidence of possession of contraband/weapons? As long as police are informing citizens that conversations and searches are being recorded (and as long as the police get the citizen’s consent to search ON CAMERA) then the searches are probably not intrusive and/or violations of a citizen’s constitutional rights. We’ll see.