As police body worn cameras (BWCs) increasingly make their way into police departments, criminal investigations, and prosecutions across the United States, it is important for police officials, prosecutors and the public to be made aware of the issues that surround this new technology. Currently, there are no uniform policies or procedures for BWCs, and as the technology continues to rapidly evolve, it is imperative for police departments and prosecutors to coordinate to develop comprehensive and adaptable policies to increase community trust in local law enforcement. The Prosecutor's Center for Excellence (PCE) partnered with White & Case to pioneer a report designed to guide prosecutors through the considerations surrounding the use of BWCs. After over a year of research and review of a variety of existing resources focused primarily on the law enforcement community, White & Case and PCE are excited to release their report on BWCs directed to prosecutors, titled Police Body Worn Cameras: What Prosecutors Need to Know, to the public.
The report emphasizes that, while developing and introducing BWC programs and policies, prosecutors should consider the following:
- Capabilities and limitations of BWC technology, including: battery life, field of view, buffering capabilities, photo capabilities, and categorization tagging (e.g. evidentiary, non-evidentiary, time/location, bearing officer, etc.);
- Utilization of storage systems for BWC recordings (local hard drive and/or cloud-based), access rights and internal policies, and chain of custody reports noting when a recording is viewed, deleted, redacted, etc.;
- Integrating input from a diverse set of stakeholders to alleviate the public’s queries about the BWC program, including meetings that address concerns surrounding privacy, accountability and access to recordings, and to smoothly integrate the program into their communities; and
- Procuring the funding necessary for a prosecutor’s office to hire the personnel needed to effectively view and manage a BWC program, to store and redact the recordings, and to coordinate between different police departments and prosecutor jurisdictions.
Fundamentally, an effective BWC program will serve to bridge the gap between prosecutors, police officers, and the community that they serve. Prosecutor involvement in the development and implementation of BWC programs can provide a catalyst for advancements to our criminal justice system through increased police accountability and enhanced evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions. The report aims to serve as a guide to help facilitate this effort.