Body Cameras: Amidst Ferguson, What Impact Do They Really Have?

The shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown has sparked a lot of questions, protest and controversy over what really happened moments before the fatal shooting.

That prompted an online petition they called the "Michael Brown Law," demanding that all police officers wear a body camera.

In Virginia, there is one place that is already ahead of the curve, Orange County.

Within the county, Gordonsville and the historic town of Orange police departments have their entire force equipped with the cameras.

Orange chief James Fenwick says body cameras give a better perspective of interactions with citizens

"You know we don't police from inside of our cars, we police getting out of our cars when dealing with people so the body cams actually filled that gap," said Fenwick.

The small device can fit in the palm of your hand, and it has many variations. It's used as a backup to provide transparency to many encounters.

"These cameras, in particular are the pro vision body cams, the BC100 has a 170 degree field of view," said Fenwick.

The body camera becomes much more vital than a simple dash cam, which only allows for a limited view.

"With the in car video, I'm in the frame of recording," he said. If for some reason there was a fight or some physical altercation or some foot pursuit and i move out of the frame at that point i'm relying on my audio."

In Charlottesville, Chief Timothy Longo has been a fan of the body cam for some time. He and the chief of Orange both agree that it provides one of the most important aspects, accountability.

"What we're finding is that officers behave better when they know they're being monitored and will be followed up on as we randomly inspect these videos and the citizens behave better," Longo said.

Charlottesville police put in a request for proposal to see how much it would take for the department to purchase the cameras as they can range anywhere from $300 to $800 each.

"What we're seeing in law enforcement is a reduction in citizen complaints and a reduction in use of force," said Longo. "That's a win-win for the department's credibility and the community's well-being."

Time and money will tell how long it will take for body cameras to become the trend. Chief Fenwick said that the cameras are not the end all solution.

"A lot of it is the officer treating citizens the way they would want their family to be treated," he said.


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