Salt Lake City police join technology move to headcams

Video surveillance cameras that eye supermarkets, car parks and train stations are something many people are used to by now. But one US police force is making the headlines for trying to take this a step further: clipping cameras on the side of all their officers’ heads via glasses, helmets or hats. They can record a crime scene or any interaction with the public, adding to the footage already produced by dashboard cameras in their cars.

On Wednesday a police chief in Salt Lake City, Utah, announced his intention to make wearable cameras mandatory at his police department.

But perhaps the development should not be such a surprise. In fact, wearable cameras have been used by officers for some time to document on-the-scene actions.

Supporters of the technology highlight the fact that they are made in such a way that officers cannot edit the footage, helping to ensure transparency.

However, there are concerns about privacy

“All of our motor officers are using the most current camera on a daily basis,” says Commander Scott Schubert from Pittsburgh Police Department.

“Unlike an in-car video that stays positioned in front of the car, the helmet or glasses-mounted cameras go wherever the officer goes and records what the officer observes.

“I think it’s a great resource because it provides transparency and helps to ensure accountability, by the officers and the public, during police interaction.

“It also provides valuable information that can assist with the successful prosecution of crimes, protect officers from false complaints, and assist with addressing valid complaints involving police conduct…”

We have at least one police department here in New Mexico using one or another variation on the theme. Poisonally, I’m in favor of having a record of what happens at any arrest – or even an investigation. Under the best of circumstances, our memory is fallible.

So far, the recordings have been called upon for information about crime scenes, incidents involving complaints about the police, validating complaints against perps. The one issue not addressed in the article – and it can be sorted by the software record – is that cops have already figured out that if they’re getting ready to break the law themselves, preparing to violate procedures – they simply turn the camera off and prevent the recording.

That should require an immediate review with the watch commander.

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