Body cameras may protect those dealing with police, study shows

Studies show that the use of body cameras by police officers may reduce violent incidents against suspects and increase public trust.

Incidents of law enforcement officers being accused of using excessive force or unable to account for their actions have repeatedly shown up in national headlines. Residents of Virginia, as well as the rest of the country, are starting to be concerned about the alleged acts of police brutality against those suspected of robbery or battery, or even people pulled over for a simple traffic stop. Most people will agree that having a police force is necessary to keep order and protect the public, but in many instances it seems that the public needs to be protected from police officers.

Man in South Boston dies after repeated tasing by officers

An incident that occurred in South Boston in May 2013 may show the need for more control over police officers who use unnecessary force to control those they are putting under arrest. According to the New York Daily News, officers responded to a noise complaint at a motel and found a guest pacing and muttering. They put him in their squad car and drove him to the hospital for an evaluation. During the drive, the 46-year-old man allegedly panicked and kicked out the windows of the police car. When they arrived at the hospital and opened the door, he ran out and crashed into the emergency room doors.

A police officer used his Taser to subdue the man, then his legs were shackled before they loaded him back into the squad car, arresting him for destruction of property and disorderly conduct. Several members of the medical staff said they observed multiple officers tasing the man numerous times. After they reached the police station, the man died.

Body cameras seem to have beneficial effect

This extreme example illustrated the type of conflict that has prompted many police stations across the country to have their officers wear body cameras. Researchers at the University of South Florida conducted a study on police officers in Orlando, Florida, who wore body cameras for a year. 46 officers wore the cameras while 43 did not. The study's results showed a 53 percent drop in use-of-force incidents among the officers who had the cameras, as well as a drop of 65 percent in civilian complaints against officers with body cameras. The police who wore the cameras largely reported the following results:

• A positive change in civilian behavior

• Confrontations that de-escalated before force was necessary

• Better collection of evidence

• Fewer officers and civilians being injured

• Improved ability to fill out reports and remember events

Additionally, most police officers said they didn't feel like the cameras were a burden to wear, and two-thirds said they would like to keep using them. Most officers said they believed all police personnel in the front line should wear body cameras. Studies in other states reported similar results.

Not all police departments in Virginia utilize body cameras, but the trend seems to be growing among many departments across the country. This technology may protect those who are accused of crimes, as well as the public. People facing criminal charges should speak with a criminal defense attorney to protect their rights.