The Guardian reported last week that Miami Beach is planning on expanding the use of body cameras beyond the police to include “meter maids,” code enforcement officers, and building and fire inspectors. This use of the technology does not make sense.

We’ve always been concerned about the privacy-invading potential of body cameras. As we wrote in our white paper on the technology,

Body cameras have more of a potential to invade privacy than [other] deployments. Police officers enter people’s homes and encounter bystanders, suspects, and victims in a wide variety of sometimes stressful and extreme situations. . . . Perhaps most troubling is that some recordings will be made inside people’s homes, whenever police enter—including in instances of consensual entry… and such things as domestic violence calls.

Balanced against these privacy dangers, however, is the significant need to increase oversight in light of the long record of abusive and illegal behavior by police officers (and other law enforcement agents like Border Patrol officers). Police in specific circumstances are given the authority to shoot to kill, to use brutal force, and to arrest citizens—and all too often, officers abuse those powers.

I am not aware of any cases of building inspectors shooting unarmed civilians in the course of their work. The fact is, these jobs do not come with the frightening powers that police officers possess, and so do not need the same kinds of checks on those powers. Deploying body cameras on these workers would bring all the downsides of police body cams—including in some cases filming inside private homes—without any of the benefits. The balance is completely different.

And as we noted in the white paper, the privacy of the employees should also be factored into the equation:

Just as body cameras can invade the privacy of many innocent citizens, continuous deployment would similarly impinge on police officers when they are sitting in a station house or patrol car shooting the breeze — getting to know each other as humans, discussing precinct politics, etc. We have some sympathy for police on this; continuous recording might feel as stressful and oppressive in those situations as it would for any employee subject to constant recording by their supervisor.

Of course employers, including local governments, have an interest in monitoring their workers to ensure they are doing their jobs properly. But the pervasive monitoring that body-worn cameras bring would create an atmosphere of oppressive surveillance and intimidation. (Again, for police officers their extreme powers and history of abuse justify a different balance—and even so we have called for an extensive set of rules in the deployment of body cams, not just to protect the public’s privacy but also officers’.)

Apparently there has been some problem in Miami Beach with corruption among some of these civilian enforcement employees. But occasional wrongdoing by a few employees does not justify wiring up entire workforces with cameras, especially when those cameras will also be generating video of members of the public. In any case, a top city official told the Guardian that “the basis for the institution of the program is not to catch corruption, it’s to build transparency.” It’s true that “transparency” is a crucial value when it comes to government, but a vague citation of that value is not enough to justify this use of cameras.

I applaud Miami Beach for moving to equip its police officers with cameras (apparently in the face of some opposition by the police union). But they should stick to police.

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jdgalt

I can see where it might be too much if ordinary employers were to start making their employees wear body cameras. But these cameras definitely need to be available to the public, so that people who expect to be victims of harassment or other crimes can gather proof for themselves. Especially against police and other authorities willing to abuse their powers, a hidden camera may very well be the only remedy.

Anonymous

Great article to explain why the need for police officers to wear cameras!

It wouldn't have been an issue if it were for police officers abusing their powers thinking they are above the law.

I encountered 3 yesterday. I was not please how they treated me so I filed a complaint against them. You should write articles how to file a complaint against the officers and how to follow the procedures.

Anonymous

“meter maids,” code enforcement officers, and building and fire inspectors.
disagree these positions all enforce some kind of law or code.

Anonymous

Domestic violence calls are some of the most dangerous types of calls that law enforcement officers can respond to. Many times the victim will turn against the police when they realize that the person who has just been beating them senseless might be going to jail. Emotions are high and many times the victim won't just yell at the police. They will grab potential weapons from within the house to use against the police. In a case where the police have to subdue someone for everyone's safety, it becomes the word of the cop(s) against the word of the residents. That's the type of case where body cameras would be extremely useful to protect everyone involved.

Jack Burke

Mr. Stanley's casual assumption that our police are brutal and illegal is not only insulting to the tens of thousands of officers who daily risk their lives to protect people like Mr. Stanley, but are unsupported by facts. Every year a few officers behave improperly and when the ACLU finds out them the ACLU goes on a fund raising rant. When officers are wounded or killed we never hear from the ACLU, showing a lack of common decency.

For Mr. Stanley's information, parking inspectors ("meter maids") suffer insults and assaults on a daily basis nationwide. Cameras would serve to protect them and catch the cowards who attack them. Similarly, cameras would protect other government employees from unwarranted accusations as well as helping them stay honest.

Next time Mr. Stanley or one of his fellow employees gets caught speeding a body camera will provid e evidence of how HE behaves.

Anonymous

I don't get why they deleted my message - or never put it on. It wasn't worse than the people on OTHER articles sitting there calling people niggers and all kinds of other foul, disgusting terms.

All I said was that people like George "I'm God" Zimmerman could have done with a mandatory camera on HIS butt, and I still think it's true.
Would he REALLY have done all the things he DID do if he knew someone was going to see a blow-by-blow reenacting of the scene?

Anonymous

cameras are also there to protect police officers as it could be used in their defense when their actions come into question even when they are in the right.....ie the Ferguson Situation. There however is only a need for the camera to be on when there is a call out or encounter with public....it is excessive to punish all police officers for the actions of a few. I have known many police officers and am married to one. Most police officers put all others above them and treat others with respect....why should they be punished and have their privacy on public display?

Anonymous

1 : Law must be made to make it Illegal , to "order" someone to do or not do something that is not illegal. (like videotaping a police officer)

2: The regulations concerning "Obstruction of Justice" and "disobeying" a direct order"
need to be rescinded, deleted, thrown out.

Police are abusing their power and jurisdiction, and basically have a "right" to tell anyone to do anything, and then arrest them if they disobey.

3: Minorities need to Raise their children with 1 Goal:
Become a Police officer/Law enforcement or Lawyer.

The Klan has already infiltrated all of Law Enforcement,
and it is time for Minorities to Flock towards it,
if change is to be made.

Anonymous

Who cares? I've got a camera on my cell phone, do you?

Anonymous

I believe that Gun-cameras would be the better way to address these issues. After all, the thing the public has become the most worried about is what is happening when the officer pulls a trigger. I want HD photos of exactly what the officer is seeing in the instant he chose to shoot someone. I'm not so interested in wasting data space on footage of officers doing paperwork in a cruiser.

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