Officers are “Forgetting” to Turn on Their Body Cameras

The ethical issue here is that these officers are “forgetting” to turn on their body cameras, which suggests that they are not doing their jobs correctly. People are dying...
Police Cameras
Photo credit to West Midlands Police via Flickr

The ethical issue here is that these officers are “forgetting” to turn on their body cameras, which suggests that they are not doing their jobs correctly. People are dying and we don’t know if it was for good or just a hasty judgment call. Anything that has to do with someone being killed for reasons that are not justified is an ethical issue. These officers should know that it is part of their job to turn on their body cameras. The camera is there for a reason. Its purpose is to record exactly what goes down if they are in a questionable situation.  Isn’t that a part of what they are getting paid for? If the cameras are always activated we would never have any issues with not knowing if what the officer did was right or wrong. These officers could be acting hastily without fully thinking out what they were doing. The men that were killed could still be alive or even innocent for whatever crime they were accused of.

During one of the situations, Officer Neal Browder failed to turn on his body camera when confronting a man. It was shown through evidence that the man’s death was unnecessary.   From reports and a small clip from a surveillance camera, it appears to show that the man was slowly walking towards the cop and the cop just shot him for no good reason. The cop shouldn’t be permitted to shoot someone because he is scared or spooked.  With low quality surveillance footage it is still hard to know exactly what went down that night, though. The owner of the store who called the cops on the man claims the same thing as the surveillance camera showed.  Cops shouldn’t be able to just shoot someone unless they reasonably feel threatened for their lives. From what I have read it sounds like the officer could have at least tased the man instead of shooting him. Most of the evidence we have to go by is from the officer himself. How could we be sure that what the officer says is true if he didn’t even turn on his body camera? Did he have something to hide? There was another shooting when two officers started shooting at a man who ran into traffic holding a gun at them and refused to put it down. We can’t know what really happened because both of these officers failed to turn their body cameras on. When they first saw anything happening it should be like reflexes to turn their cameras on. Their actions wouldn’t even be questioned if we could see what they were doing.

From cases I have found through research it shows that officers are afraid to turn on their cameras because the videos could get released to the public and they could get criticized for what they did. I’m not sure why they feel that the videos could cause them to be criticized unless they were doing something that was unethical or against the law.  If the video just shows them doing their job correctly what do they even have to worry about? I believe the option to even turn off the cameras shouldn’t be permitted. They should run during an entire shift. Then it would be known if the officer is doing the right thing. It was argued that this would be violating the officer’s privacy but they are at work. They shouldn’t be doing anything that they need to keep private anyway. This is a job that puts people’s lives at risk. Anything done that even seems unethical or unlawful should not be ignored.

After the use of body cameras became required in San Diego the complaints towards officers decreased significantly. Maybe just having the camera on makes it easier to choose the ethically correct thing to do in a tough situation. Officers are here to protect us all and should always do the right thing even when it comes to criminals.  It is not hard to do the ethically correct thing and just turn the body camera on unless they really do have something to hide.

Ethics Alerts (Op-Ed)
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