Police depts testing new gun-mounted video cameras; ACLU and NAACP say no thanks

Police body camera footage has become an integral facet of police / public interactions, and can often mean the difference between the conviction or acquittal of a defendant and even charges of wrongdoing for the officer himself.

After all, it’s hard for either side to get away with lying in the face of direct video evidence.

However, a proposed new tool on the camera-front, one directly mounted on the guns of police officers, is oddly drawing criticism from certain civil rights groups.

According to an Associated Press report, some police departments are expressing interest in the gun mounted cameras, which costs around $500 apiece or about the same as a body mounted one, to supplement their video evidence capabilities.

The pros are significant: low video storage costs since the gun cameras only record when the weapon is drawn, a Bluetooth feature that alerts dispatchers when an officer may need backup, an attached high-powered light to free up a hand that would otherwise hold a flashlight, and a better view of any moments of truth when officer elbows, hands, and other instruments might get in the way of a body camera.

“It’s kind of cutting-edge technology now,” St. Petersburg, Florida Assistant Chief Michael Kovacsev said. “One thing about the gun camera is you can actually see what’s going on. You actually get to see the viewpoint of the officer where the weapon is pointed.”

However, civil rights groups like the ACLU and the NAACP are worried about the cons, particularly the fact that the gun-mounted cameras only begin recording after guns are drawn, which means there would be no evidence about why the officer drew his or her weapon in the first place.

Although several agencies are currently testing the gun cameras and several more plan to, larger police departments such as Los Angeles and New York so far aren’t planning a test run.

“If you put a camera on a gun, it’s only going to work when you pull your gun,” NYPD Deputy Chief Timothy Trainor said. “We’re more concerned about capturing (all) interactions between the community that we are tasked to serve and the officers.”

Which echoes the sentiments of both the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP, both of which are against using the gun cameras instead of body cameras.

“I think there’s a lot of context you’re going to be missing with the gun-mounted cameras,” said the NAACP’s Ngozi Ndulue. “I think we need to focus more on the policies for implementing body cameras and making sure officers are turning on their body cameras.”

Or using both, which should be a compromise all sides should be able to live with.

ACLU senor policy analyst Jay Stanley said, “There’s no guarantee that the gun cameras are going to be better than other cameras. If there was a shooting, I would want more video than just the gun camera video.”

Exactly. Neither side should throw the baby out with the bathwater here. When it comes to police / public interactions in this highly charged political environment, the more video evidence, the better.

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.

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Scott Morefield

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