Yes, Body Cameras Are Probably Worth It (NY Magazine)

By JESSE SINGAL | December 4, 2014

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

…as tragic as Garner’s death was, it might be incorrect to extract any broader lessons from it about police body cameras. The effects of these cameras may only kick in, or kick in fully, when officers know they’re being watched in every one of their interactions with the public, and it could be the case that these changes in behavior take time — if police are in the habit of acting in an aggressive or confrontational manner with citizens, in other words, the sudden presence of bystanders with cameras might not make a difference.  (This ties into a long line of research, much of which is summed up nicely in Mark Kleiman’s book When Brute Force Fails, showing that one of the best ways to change criminal behavior is to ratchet up the odds that the perpetrator will be caught — the same logic can be applied to police.)

None of this means body cameras will permanently fix relationships between police and citizens in places where that relation is strained. “It’s truly not a panacea and at least in my mind, the money used for cameras would be much better used if the money were allocated for screening for recruitment and selection and then proper training,” said Maria Haberfeldof the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Because if you have the right people doing this job, and people are properly trained, you don’t need the cameras.”

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