These days, it seems like dash cams are everywhere. The global market for the dash cam system was worth $1,458 million dollars in 2013 and is expected to grow annually by more than 15% going forward. As the value of body cameras and dash cams becomes ever more clear, more police and law enforcement districts are installing a police dash cam system in every patrol car. There are distinct advantages of police body cameras and the police dash cam system. Here’s what they can do.
- A short history of the police dash cam system. In the late 1990s, there were many allegations of racial profiling being made against police officers throughout the United States. This was eroding the public’s confidence in the police and inspired the Department of Justice and many local police departments to put a police dash cam system in cars and body cams on officers. This served two excellent purposes. In the first place, when racial profiling was an issue, the department was able to identify this and proactively address it with the officer before it became more serious. Second, it defended those officers who were being falsely accused. In fact, the police dash cam system and police body cams not only helped with these issues of racial profiling at the time, but have since demonstrated their value in many ways.
- In car camera systems and police body cameras keep officer safe. A survey done some years after the camera systems had been installed in certain police districts asked law enforcement officers to rate how the cameras had affected their own personal safety. The overwhelming majority were reviewing their videotapes and self-critiquing. This critique of their own actions helped them to learn safer and more useful ways of dealing with potential trouble. Officers also believed that the camera encouraged citizens to de-escalate in a tense situation.
- The police dash cam system decreased complaints about police practices. The presence of a camera and the proactive interest that officers take in reviewing the footage and trying to improve has resulted in better responses by the police. The cameras have also brought something else to light: the vast majority of police are falsely accused. Over 96% of the time, video recorded during an event supported the officer’s actions and choices. Complaints against an officer were validated by video footage less than 4% of the time. In fact, at least half the time a complaint would be withdrawn as soon the complainant became aware that the event had been recorded.
- In car camera systems are valuable training systems. Not only can experienced officers self-critique using video recordings, as they are already doing, but trainers and instructors can review footage and truly see things through the eyes of new officers. This enables them to better serve those officers in training sessions. Records of unusual events can be used for in-service training as can a particularly successful officer interaction: or a particularly unsuccessful one.
- In car camera systems and police body cameras are something most people approve of. Of course, law enforcement does not do things just because they are popular. However, there is something to be said for the nearly universal approval of these camera systems. Pew Research Center recently found that 93% of the public want officers to use body cameras when interacting with citizens, and 66% of officers feel the same way. Public meetings routinely show that public opinion of the police department goes up when the department is willing to use body cameras and dash cams,
Police cameras are making a difference in the lives of officers, to public opinion, and in the entire community. As of early 2015, about one-third of America’s police departments were using body cameras and approximately 72% of state patrol vehicles have in car cameras. Cameras are valuable and they are working: it’s time to get them in every police department.