The False Hope Of Police Body Cameras

law enforcement officer with badge on chest
Via flickr
Tremain Prioleau II
January 18, 2024

Body cameras worn by officers were supposed to mark the end of police violence. How could an officer think to do something harmful on camera? The reality is that little good has come from body cameras.

According to the Bureau of Justice, by 2013, about one-third of local police departments in the United States reported using body cameras. With the death of Mike Brown in 2014, camera purchases by departments exploded. For the police, the fear of becoming the next Ferguson, Missouri department was greater than protecting Black lives.

In 2022, at least 1,201 people were killed by the police, according to Mapping Police Violence. How did body cameras help these victims? Since its implementation, transparency around the use of cameras has been questioned.

Cases of officers turning off their cameras and departments withholding footage from the public go against the will of the public, who demand accountability. If police can not be trusted to hold themselves accountable to the public, how can they be trusted at all?

Just as Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” This rings especially true for the criminal legal system. The nature of policing doesn’t change because of technology, so how can we, as a community, seek real justice?

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