The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department announced last week that its deputies will begin wearing body cameras during patrols. This is in addition to the dashboard cameras already placed in patrol vehicles.
Ann Arbor city officials have discussed the use of body cameras for the Ann Arbor Police Department following the controversial shooting of a woman who allegedly confronted police officers with a knife.
The decision arrived before a grand jury yesterday chose not to indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed man in Ferguson, Missouri. In that case witnesses produced conflicting versions of events, an ultimate “he said-she said” situation.
Body cameras have the potential to eliminate the “he said-she said” argument between police officers and civilians following a police encounter, an argument that usually results in the police version of events being affirmed over the civilian’s version.
Body cameras also have the power to hold police officers accountable to a high standard of conduct, as they would know that their actions are being recorded.
There are of course drawbacks to body cameras. An ordinary person may get wrapped up in an embarrassing situation. Once that situation is recorded, the video may be accessed by the public via the Freedom of Information Act. Anyone can then view the video or put it on the internet for the world to see.
The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s decision to wear body cameras will most notably affect the residents of Ypsilanti Township, where the Sheriff provides police services.