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Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is a cosponsor of a bill introduced by Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) that would expand the use of police body cameras. Called the Police Creating Accountability by Making Effective Recording Available (Police CAMERA) Act of 2017, it creates a grant program to help state and local law enforcement agencies develop body camera programs, while also seeking to protect privacy rights.
“The use of body cameras helps officers collect and preserve evidence to solve crimes, while also decreasing the number of complaints against police,” said Senator Paul in a press release obtained by Maui Now. “The Police CAMERA Act will help state and local police departments access this new tool, while ensuring that the privacy rights of every civilian are respected.”
The grant program would use existing funds to help state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies with the purchase or loaning of body cameras. The Police CAMERA Act would also commission a study to study the effects of the cameras on use of excessive force, public and officer safety, along with creating procedures to protect the privacy of those filmed.
We can’t restore trust between our communities and law enforcement without transparency and accountability,” Schatz said n a press release. “Body cameras alone won’t repair that relationship, but they have proven to be effective and can do a great deal to keep both police officers and community members safe and accountable.”
The effects of body cameras are disputed. While they’re credited with making police more cautious in the use of force, they can be switched off, which can lead to increased incidents of excessive force.
As RAND Corporation researchers Alex Sutherland and Barak Ariel found:
“As soon as officers are given the power to decide which cases should be recorded, or at which point during the interaction with the citizen to turn the camera on, body-worn cameras not only can fail, but may backfire. We found that when officers used their discretion to turn cameras on and off during their shifts, this was associated with an increased use of force.”
However, the two researchers also wrote:
“If being observed by a body camera leads to greater professionalism, accountability and a more consensual style of policing, officers may not resort to unnecessary or excessive force. At the same time — and as important — citizens who are videotaped while talking to cops may exercise more self-control and take part in a respectful dialogue with officers of the law, even if they are suspected of breaking the law. The camera keeps both the officer and the citizen in check by reminding them they are being watched.”