Troy, N.Y., police officer Bob Fitzgerald tested a wearable camera–an unobtrusive unit with a little lens that clips to his shirt front, the Associated Press reports. It records what the officer sees and hears. It might bring to mind Big Brother, but police and some civil rights advocates see potential benefits in on-the-beat recordings. The videos give officers another incentive to follow the rules. Fitzgerald notes that wearable cameras help defend against bogus complaints of harassment or bad police work. “Like it or not, everyone else on the street has one,” he says. “They’re videotaping you.”
Amateur videos have become far more common now in the age of cell phone cameras and file-sharing sites like YouTube. Police routinely record themselves with cameras mounted inside police cruisers. There were more than 17,500 cameras in state police vehicles by 2004, said a study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police commissioned by the Department of Justice. John Firman, research director for the chiefs’ association, said initial resistance among police to recording their working moments melted as videos began supporting officers’ version of events.