Body Cameras Keep Officers and Public Accountable

GREENSBORO, N.C. - For nearly a year, the Greensboro Police Department has required its officers to wear cameras that are on and recording all incidents. These cameras could have been helpful for investigators trying to figure out exactly what happened in Ferguson, Mo. to 18-year-old Michael Brown who was killed over the weekend.

According to the Washington Post, the Ferguson Police Department does not have cameras in its 18 cruisers. It received a grant from the Department of Justice this year for two dash cams and two body-worn cameras, but they haven't been installed yet.

GPD said the cameras have benefited both its officers and the people in the community. Deputy Chief Wayne Scott said the cameras keep officers and the general public accountable. He said in the last year, the department has seen a decrease in both use of force and complaints against officers.

"I think it's fair to say that everybody can be nervous when they're on camera. And sometimes officers may say or do things and they think, "Hmm, you know, that probably didn't come out the way I meant for it to.' But, overall I believe it's positive. It's been positive for the organization. It's been positive for the community," Scott said.

Greensboro police uses the footage to investigate complaints against officers. This year, the department said at least 25 complaints were found to be meritless based on the recordings. According to the department's professional standards report, there were 14 specific complaints against officers involving use of force in 2013. Two of those cases were sustained.

GPD said the camera footage is reviewed the most in cases where officers use force.

"It just helps answer questions and you know hopefully it doesn't leave things up in the air or make assumptions about what could of occurred. When you have a video, you know what's occurred," Scott said.

Winston-Salem Police Department also has cameras in its some its cars and on some its officers. The body cameras are worn on officers in different units including patrol and traffic.

Scott said many police departments say they can't afford to buy body cameras, but he said they also can't afford to not have them.

The cameras Greensboro police use cost nearly $1,200 each. They were paid for by a federal stimulus grant.


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