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Body cameras for police officers: A few things to consider

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We may soon see more police officers wearing body cameras in the wake of police actions being called into question in New York City and Ferguson, Missouri. Former Erie County Assistant District Attorney Mary Beth DePasquale now works as a criminal defense attorney for the law firm of Tully Rinckey, PLLC and provided WBFO with some insight into the use of body cameras by officers.

People are caught on camera thousands of times a day, notes DePasquale, so officers using a body camera would simply provide a more detailed accounting of any event but, she adds, there are many questions that remained to be answered.

"Is every patrol officer going to be mandated to wear a body camera," asks DePasquale,"When does it have to be put on? When an officer leaves the vehicle to interact with a citizen or the entire time an officer is in a vehicle? Does the officer have the ability to turn that camera off?  If so, that kind of makes it pointless."

DePasquale also notes it's important that various law enforcement agencies are on the same page.

"There has to be consistency between the different departments. For instance, if Buffalo Police do not use body cameras but all the suburban agencies use them than that's going to leave an area open for defense attorneys to attack. Why is it Buffalo doesn't implement the use of these cameras? Is it because of the complaints from the citizens of unlawful force or excessive force? Is there something to hide? So there needs to be consistency as to how this is going to be implemented and used," she says.

DePasquale adds there are other issues as well such as, "Is it going to be able to properly record or be able to show anything if an officer is involved in a foot chase with a suspect when it's dark outside. They're running through darkened yards. We might be seeing a lot of bouncing. We might be seeing a lot of darkness.  If an officer gets in some type of physical altercation with a suspect, is it going to be knocked off their body? Is it going to be damaged in some way so footage can not be recorded? Those are all issues that are going to be coming up as this begins to be used by different agencies."

The bottom line though, DePasquale says is body cameras will protect both law abiding officers and citizens providing an objective recording of events which leaves nothing to the imagination.