The fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO is prompting discussions about more police wearing body cameras to record interactions with the public while on duty. Villanova University's Kelly Welch, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology & Criminology, and expert on social justice, criminological theory, is available to discuss this issue with media.
Professor Welch says:
"The matter of whether or not it would be useful for police officers to wear body cameras is most definitely not straightforward, particularly in situations like that which occurred in Ferguson.
Body cameras were first introduced as a means to produce evidence of illegal behavior; catching criminals would be an obvious benefit to their use. But, increased accountability of law enforcement would be another benefit; not only would officers' interactions with the public be recorded to ensure proper demeanor by the police, but it might also serve as a deterrent for improper use of authority.
However, the substantial drawback to having law enforcement officers wear body cameras is diminished civil liberties--freedoms and rights that are articulated in The Constitution. Although video may be perceived as the clearest way to convey what truly happens in an incident, the truth is that the context of events, particularly criminal ones, is often lost, altered, or even manipulated on film. It would be difficult to find a way to endorse the use of body cameras that did not violate the principles on which the U.S. was founded.
So, in essence, the use of police body cameras has the potential to deter inappropriate or illegal behavior. It is possible that the police officer that shot Michael Brown in Ferguson would have acted differently if he wore a camera that was filming. But, the usefulness of such footage would be questionable for understanding the tragedy that occurred."