Volume 1412 Number 5
10 limitations of body cams
This is taken from an article by an organization that does Police Science research (as opposed to speculation and pontificating).
The idea is building that once every cop is equipped with a body camera, the controversy will be taken out of police shootings because “what really happened” will be captured on video for all to see.
Well, to borrow the title from an old Gershwin tune, ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So.’
There’s no doubt that body cameras—like dash cams, cell phone cams, and surveillance cams—can provide a unique perspective on police encounters . . .
- A camera doesn’t follow your eyes or see as they see.
‘A body camera photographs a broad scene but it can’t document where within that scene you are looking at any given instant . . .’
- Some important danger cues can’t be recorded.
‘Tactile cues that are often important to officers in deciding to use force . . . And, of course, the camera can’t record the history and experience you bring to an encounter. . .’
- Camera speed differs from the speed of life.
- A camera may see better than you do in low light.
- Your body may block the view.
- A camera only records in 2-D.
- Because cameras don’t record depth of field—the third dimension that’s perceived by the human eye—accurately judging distances on their footage can be difficult.
- The absence of sophisticated time-stamping may prove critical.
When reviewers see precisely how quickly suspects can move and how fast the various elements of a use-of-force event unfold . . . radically change their perception of what happened . . .
- One camera may not be enough.
‘Think of the analysis of plays in a football game. In resolving close calls, referees want to view the action from as many cameras as possible to fully understand what they’re seeing.’
- A camera encourages second-guessing.
‘According to the U. S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor, an officer’s decisions in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving situations are not to be judged with the ‘20/20 vision of hindsight,’ Lewinski notes. ‘But in the real-world aftermath of a shooting, camera footage provides an almost irresistible temptation for reviewers to play the coulda-shoulda game.’
A camera can never replace a thorough investigation.
Even when we consider only what seems obvious about cameras on cops, “It ain’t necessarily true.”