When Ray Tensing, a University of Cincinnati police officer, pulled his gun during a traffic stop and fatally shot Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man, the moment was captured on camera.
Tensing was indicted on murder and manslaughter charges — in part because of footage from the camera slung on his chest, technology that campus police forces nationwide have rapidly embraced. The university agreed to pay DuBose’s family nearly $5 million, and Tensing awaits a retrial this month after a jury deadlocked last year.
College and university police and safety heads gave similar answers for wanting their forces to adopt body-worn cameras. They promote a sense of accountability and transparency that appeals to members of the public, especially to people of color, some of whom distrust law enforcement. And as in the DuBose case, such documentation can prove invaluable in court proceedings.
Filming police interactions comes with complex considerations — including the new financial burden on institutions and the tricky and sometimes unknowable legal and privacy questions that vary depending on each state’s laws and access to those records.
Generally, institutions Inside Higher Ed interviewed say they purchase enough body cams for every sworn officer on their campus’ police departments.
Cameras are most commonly fastened to the chest, but can also sometimes be attached to the head to provide a record from the officer’s vantage point.
The body cams are retrieved at the beginning of every shift, and a cop must manually turn them on and off. Newer versions of the cameras can sync with other proximate body cameras, or cameras mounted in police vehicles. In some cases, if an officer removes a weapon from its holster, or turns the car sirens and lights on, the cameras can activate automatically.
After the cameras are returned, they are placed in a dock where the footage automatically uploads to either a secured server located on the campus or a cloud service that the institution can purchase through a vendor.
Post time: Aug-29-2019