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There's a renewed call for police body cameras. Here's why that may not be the right solution

June 30, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Body cameras aren't an easy fix. Rather, experts say, they're only as effective as the departments that adopt them. And even then, they're just one piece of a very complicated system.

(CNN)The calls for police officers to wear body cameras is not new.

Another study of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department found that body cameras reduced use of force and civilian complaints only modestly.

For body cameras to be effective, a police department needs to have a proper plan in place.

At least 19 states and Washington, D. C. require police departments to develop written policies around body cameras, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

"[Body camera policies] are written oftentimes in conjunction with police unions and are oftentimes put in place to benefit department interests and officer interests in a way that I think don't live up to the promises that mayors and police chiefs have made to communities," says Harlan Yu, executive director of Upturn.

One issue that police departments specifically struggle with is getting officers to comply with turning their cameras on when they are supposed to, White says.

"All the goodwill that can be built up by a police chief with the community in terms of rolling out of body-worn camera program and whatever else they're trying to to do in terms of reform and engagement can be lost almost immediately if there's a critical incident like a shooting and there should have been footage, but there wasn't because the officer didn't activate," he says.

In February, the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) released a report detailing the challenges the agency had in obtaining evidence from body cameras worn by New York police officers in the first half of 2019.

A 2015 study of the Anaheim Police Department's body camera program found that though officers were expected to record all interactions with community members, the degree to which they did so varied widely.

Upturn reviewed fatal police shootings tracked by the Washington Post, and found that out of 105 police killings captured by body cameras in 2017, there were 40 cases where footage wasn't made public.

"We've seen many, many instances where there has been body worn camera footage, especially of a fatal police shooting," Yu says.

Casstevens says that when police departments withhold body camera footage, the department's policies should make clear to the public why it isn't being released.

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