Civil-Rights Group Grades Police On Body Cameras

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After several high-profile, fatal, officer-involved shootings from Ferguson to North Charleston, a national civil rights coalition has graded police departments on their body camera policies, and one of the cities getting a low score was Memphis, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The Washington, D.C.-based Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, with the help of technology consulting firm Upturn, reviewed 50 law enforcement agencies’ body-worn police camera policies. Eight criteria examine whether a department: makes the department policy publicly and readily available; limits officer discretion on when to record; addresses personal privacy concerns; prohibits officer pre-report viewing; limits retention of footage; protects footage against tampering and misuse; makes footage available to individuals filing complaints and limits the use of biometric technologies. The study found that none of the departments it analyzed met all the criteria, and that the police departments in Ferguson and in Fresno, Ca., failed all of them, Reuters reports.

Last year, the group evaluated 25 police agencies and this year doubled its evaluation appraisal of the policies. “Our principles emphasize that without carefully crafted policy safeguards in place, there is a real risk that these new devices could become instruments of injustice, rather than tools of accountability,” said the civil rights group’s Wade Henderson. Memphis’ department was given a low score for not having its body camera policy available online “publicly and readily available,” in contrast to other departments including San Francisco, which has a Web page dedicated to the development of its body camera policy, and provides biweekly updates of the group working on the policy. Memphis, like several other departments, including Chicago, Baltimore and St. Louis, was also given low scores for allowing officers to review the recordings when completing their written reports in an effort to be accurate.

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