Police body cameras have become a rallying cry in the wake of racially charged decisions by grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City, but experts caution that increased use of the devices may raise more questions than answers, the Associated Press reports. Often what is filmed may appear excessive to a person unfamiliar with police work, even though the conduct may be legal. “There’s this saying in policing: ‘It’s lawful, but awful.’ It’s technically legal to do that, but it’s a terrible thing to do … We have to work on the awful piece, that’s what we need to focus on,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation.
Officers in one of every six departments around the U.S. now patrol with tiny cameras on their chests, lapels or sunglasses. President Obama wants to spend $74 million to equip another 50,000 with them. Many law enforcement officials support the cameras’ use and say they are effective. “If it were up to me, every officer walking around in a uniform would be wearing a body camera,” said Martin Mayer, a California-based attorney who has defended law enforcement agencies for more than 40 years. Most civil libertarians support their expansion despite concerns about the development of policies governing their use and their impact on privacy. Rank-and-file officers worry about being constantly under watch, or that an errant comment may be used by a supervisor to derail their careers.