I'll never forget when Texas' racial profiling law passed in 2001, Texas' police unions fought the idea of putting dashcams in police cars tooth and nail. They thought it was an anti-law enforcement initiative that smacked of "Big Brother" - that we only wanted the video to attack police officers.
A new camera and sound system that can be worn like a headset may change police work as we know it. The new Taser head set cam is being tested now in four American cities, and the cops seem to think is it a game changer.
Cincinnati police chief Thomas Streicher said, "It is the next giant step for law enforcement in America."
The camera puts you in the shoes of the police officer. You can see, hear and experience a confrontation as an officer does.
The video looks like a something from a movie or a high-end video game. But this is no video game -- it’s real. ...
Chief Streicher says the cameras not only provide virtually ‘bullet proof’ evidence in criminal cases witnessed by an officer, but they provide police accountability as well.
“The camera doesn’t lie,” Streicher said. And he pointed out that the camera can also provide evidence that can exonerate a police officer when his or her conduct is challenged.
“This is transparency,” he said.
But once the cameras were in place, it quickly became apparent that 9 times out of ten it benefited the police more than defendants, providing rock-solid evidence for court and protecting them from false accusations. For example, having audio when an officer receives consent to search a vehicle can avoid a future suppression hearing and ensure that whatever is found during a search isn't excluded from court. They're particularly useful in DWI cases. Plus, in instances of police misconduct, the tapes caught that, too, increasing professionalism and accountability. It's now been years since I heard officers complaining about dashcams, and for the most part they think they're great.
One problem that's arisen in Austin with dashcams is police officers conveniently turning them off when controversial incidents occur, including a high-profile shooting incident. In order to preserve the public's trust and the integrity of investigations, individual officers shouldn't control when they're activated, or else officers should be disciplined when they fail to use them. The Austin incident showed that when cameras are selectively used, it degrades the public trust just as significantly as they enhance it when audio and video is available.