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Attorney Sanga Turnbull

Are Body Cameras Effective in Preventing Police Misconduct and Brutality?

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2020 | Personal Injury

The killing of George Floyd – and the nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality that followed – prompted police departments and law enforcement agencies to change their handbooks and rules in an attempt to curb police misconduct.

According to a recent report by Patch, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announced that it would equip its deputies with “full-time body cameras.” The Hillsborough County Commission votes 6-1 (one Commissioner voted against funding body cams for deputies over his concerns about privacy and the cost of equipment). The voting came a week after the Tampa City Council approved the purchase of 650 body cameras for their police officers.

Do Body Cameras Prevent Police Brutality?

However, body cameras may not be the ultimate solution to prevent police brutality in Florida and across the nation. After the killing of Michael Brown in August 2014, which triggered the nationwide movement called “Black Lives Matter,” many police departments across the nation decided to equip their officers with body cameras.

Supporters of the then-new measure argued that the body cameras would deter the excessive use of force and other forms of police misconduct since officers would know that their every word and move is being recorded. The idea was to make law enforcement more accountable for their misconduct. However, it did not go quite as planned.

Why Body Cameras Are Not Readily Available

In May 2020, when body cameras were already used by almost every police department in the country, the measure failed to prevent the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The next day after the killing, the Minneapolis Police Department revealed that body cameras were “on and activated” at the time of the incident.

In fact, it was videos from witnesses – not body camera footage – that depicted the deadly incident. The disturbing footage recorded by bystanders showed how one of the police officers pinned Floyd to the ground with a knee and kept his knee on the black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Cell Phone Footage is Accessible to the Public Than Body Cam Footage

Since 2014, human rights advocates and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have pushed for laws to require law enforcement agencies to equip their police officers with body cameras. However, those body cams did little to hold police departments accountable for police brutality and misconduct due to the fact that body camera footage is not accessible to the public.

In fact, cell phone videos and footage from CCTV and security cameras are often more accessible to the public than footage recorded by body cameras. Like in the killing of Floyd, videos recorded by bystanders are often used to hold police officers accountable for the use of excessive force and other forms of police misconduct.

In most cases, police departments refuse to release body camera footage in the absence of a court order or public pressure. In 2018, researchers analyzed 100 fatal police shootings that occurred in 2017 and found that bodycam footage was released to the public in only 40 of those cases.

Collecting evidence is a critical part of holding police officers and law enforcement agencies accountable for their misconduct, violence, and brutality. If you have been injured at the hands of a police officer in Hillsborough County or other parts of Florida, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Lakeland personal injury attorney. Reach out to The Turnbull Firm to receive a consultation about your police misconduct case. Call at 863-324-3500 today.