Body-worn Cameras Could Transform Traditional Testimony

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As more law enforcement agencies nationwide adopt body-worn cameras, the video footage recorded by these devices—if admitted as evidence in court—has the potential to transform courts’ “traditional reliance on testimony and text,” according to an article forthcoming in the UC Davis Law Review.

“Beyond the headlines, in the daily work of courts, body camera video has an important role to play in improving the accuracy and quality of justice in criminal procedure cases,” writes Mary Fan, a law professor at the University of Washington School of Law in an article entitled “Justice Visualized: Courts and the Body Camera Revolution.” “Cameras can help prove accurate claims, disprove false claims, and give judges and juries a better sense of how quickly and stressfully events can unfold for officers and suspects – as well as what it is like to be on the receiving end of a search or seizure.”

The author recommends that trial judges as well as magistrate and appellate judges regularly look at video in adjudicating search and seizure suppression matters. But she adds that the hesitance to do so is a result of confusion, as “traditional text-bound courts are puzzled about how to incorporate the explosion of images that technology permits.”

However, the technology is new and criminal justice practitioners should proceed with caution during the transition phase, she concludes.


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