Protect and Serve

Published On December 1, 2014 » 159 Views» By Rachel Seamount » Current Events, Life
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I bet you’ve been hearing a lot about Ferguson since the shooting on August 9. At this point, you might even be thinking to yourself “oh my gosh, when is this going to get resolved?” The layers and layers of unrest that lead up to all the hubbub could take up 3 posts, so instead of delving into that tangled web let’s talk about what’s going to happen going forward, and what it means for me, you and the police force.

First: what’s happening?

Obama is asking Congress for a total of $263 million to improve our national police force. Of that, $75 million will go toward equipping about 50,000 officers with cameras and paying for the equipment needed to upload and save the recordings. The rest will be going toward training programs and funding for reform programs.

This is already in place in some cities .How do cops feel about it? Well, as you can imagine, some aren’t terribly happy about it. Chief of Police Farrar in Rialto, California, got some pushback from his officers that felt like they were being monitored unfairly by “big brother”. But he pointed out to those officers that more and more often civilians are recording interactions with police: so isn’t it better to have your own recorded picture of what happened, from your point of view?

A test

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2013/04/07/business/07-DIGI2/07-DIGI2-articleInline.jpgRialto has been a fascinating case study of how equipping more police with cameras might affect how they interact with civilians like you and me. In the first 12 months, half of police officers of Rialto were equipped with cameras at any given time. The results?

88% decline in complaints filed against officers

60% decrease in use of force

2 times more likely for force to be used by officers without cameras equipped.

But when a police officer did use force and they were equipped with a camera, they did record the incident (instead of turning the camera off).

Based on the study so far, it seems like equipping officers with cameras could be a good way to cut back on both misconduct and faulty reports of officer abuse. So in that respect it’s a win/win for officers and you and me.

What to look out for

Going forward, the police are going to have to make some decisions about how best to use recordings, and when to delete them. It’s going to be important that civilians know that they won’t get “leaked” to the media, and important that police aren’t able to use them against civilians in ways that they’re not intended.

What about military-grade equipment?

So far, it looks like the 5 agencies that supply police the military-grade equipment to use ihttp://bc05.ajnm.me/665003303001/201411/2074/665003303001_3915067737001_20141129121656403734-20.jpg?pubId=665003303001nside the United States are going to be able to keep providing that assistance. But much more focus is going to be concentrated on teaching the officers to use the equipment safely, responsibly and in the way in which it was intended.

As you can probably imagine, the president has spent a lot of time talking about “how to promote effective crime reduction while building public trust” and “how communities and law enforcement can work together to build trust to strengthen neighborhoods across the country.

Read more about plans for equipping police with cameras on NPR.org and NYTimes.com.

What do you think about these new programs, and police militarization? Tell us about it in the comments!

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About The Author
Rachel Seamount
Rachel puts her writing degree from Boise State University to work as a contributor and editor for IWJ's online content.

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