You’ll probably recall that the judge’s opinion in the recent stop and frisk case in New York mandates that the New York Police Department (NYPD) launch pilot programs testing body worn video (BWV) cameras in some NYPD precincts, including some of those with the largest numbers of stops and frisks. (Here’s a link to that part of the opinion.) Mayor Michael Bloomberg decried this aspect of the judge’s order (along with the rest of it) — an odd position for a public official who has always been a very strong advocate of more cameras for public safety (see here and here).
In the weeks since, interest in BWV systems has increased greatly, even outside of the U.S. For example, the German television network, ARD (described to me by a person who has lived in Germany as “a German PBS, but about the size of CBS or NBC”), brought me to New York last week to interview me after finding my 2010 article on BWV, “Picture This: Body Worn Video Devices (“Head Cams”) as Tools for Ensuring Fourth Amendment Compliance by Police” in the Texas Tech Law Review. The interview (conducted in English, since I don’t speak German) was quite thorough; I was then shown various publicly available videos of police/citizen encounters — some taken with BWV, others taken by members of the public — and asked for my reaction. The correspondent and the producers explained that they had brought in law enforcement experts to interview, too. The story has not yet aired, but I will post a link to it when it does (for those who speak German). Stay tuned.
And there is more effort to get at the real evidence of how BWV systems perform: what they do for the police, for police accountability, and for the criminal justice system. Two weeks ago, the Police Executives Research Forum (PERF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that describes itself as “a police research organization and a provider of management services, technical assistance, and executive-level education to support law enforcement agencies,” hosted a conference for law enforcement on BWV to explore the issues it raises for police. Here’s a link to one of the conference documents.
And then, something very useful. There have been various pilot studies already conducted by police and the Home Office in the U.K.; my Texas Tech article contains links to this research. But now, an American police department that has tried BWV has been the subject of a comprehensive, rigorous study. It’s a very promising and positive look at the potential of BWV. I’ll explain in my next post on the subject.