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May 26, 2016

Body Cams on Cops Add to Transparency

May 22, 2016

By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal

(972) 369-0577

The age of body cameras worn by police has started and we’re beginning to see them in more and more of our cases.  The verdict – more transparency.

So far the use is spotty… meaning that the cameras are on here and there for certain moments for an arrest but not all.  Not all police are wearing them — in fact the cases where we are seeing them are still well in the minority.

But from what I’ve seen so far, I like them.  It gives a clearer picture of an arrest which can often be better the accused.  I find the up-close look and listen to a body cam can be used to prevent police from exaggerating certain facts about an encounter such as slurred speech during a DWI stop, nervousness in a drug arrest, or accuser’s panic in a domestic violence situation.  While an officer is human and often have biases in certain situations — the camera doesn’t.

Also with body cams we can see and hear what the officers are thinking and saying to other officers at the scene or to dispatch which may or may not comport with how they are treating the person being arrested.

The body cams also expose the limited value of cameras on squad cars.  While they are still great tools for the discovery of the truth — they don’t show everything and can be subject to manipulation.  For example every so often we might see an officer take someone off camera during an investigation… or an officer might testify that the defendant appeared much worse, angrier, or more nervous up close and that the squad car video can’t really show these things as well.  The body cams debunk or substantiate those claims.

Body cams bring transparency to arrests.  Often it can show the officer’s point of view was right but the opposite happens too.  Either way, the transparency is good.  I’ve yet to view one where I didn’t find something of value for the accused.

*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered as legal advice.  For legal advice about any situation you should contact an attorney directly.