We welcome the news from Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper that he is evaluating the use of cameras that city police officers would wear on their bodies — on sunglasses, helmets or clothing — to film police actions.
Using the cameras, we believe, will help demonstrate that police acted correctly in confrontations with the public, and they almost certainly will provide critical evidence that helps speed up court cases. After all, a criminal suspect caught on camera making threats to police or physically attacking them has a lot less incentive to claim police misconduct than when it’s just the suspect’s word against the police officer’s. Let the public and courts see what prompted an officer’s acton.
The announcement comes a year after the Grand Junction Police Department removed dashboard cameras from patrol cars, primarily because of increasing costs.
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said he will also consider the possibility of on-body cameras for deputies. But he is concerned that, as with dashboard-mounted cameras, if the cameras don’t show all of the actions of officers and suspects clearly, they raise questions about a deputy’s credibility.
That may be true, but in an age when nearly everyone has a smart phone with a video cam, there’s a good chance that a suspect, his or her friends or uninvolved bystanders may film the actions in a way that reflects badly on an officer. Better to have video that at least shows the scene as the officer sees it, than to rely exclusively on such third-party video.
Technology is making video cameras smaller and quality better. It makes sense, both from an economic and law-enforcement standpoint, for police to utilize such technology, which is a big improvement over stationary dash-mounted cameras.