Body-worn cameras increase the public’s ability to scrutinize police officers and their actions, increasing transparency and accountability. But the cameras and management of the video they produce come with tangible costs, while academic research is mixed about whether they increase the quality of policing.
A fair number of law enforcement agencies in Washington have deployed body-worn cameras, including the Seattle, Pullman, and Pasco police departments.
But some wonder if camera programs are worth the cost.
“The cost is a tremendous amount of money to just hold police accountable. We already do have mechanisms in place to hold them accountable,” said David Makin, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University. “If you don’t trust them, then we’ve already failed. (Cameras) shouldn’t be the go-to for police accountability.”
Law enforcement agencies shouldn’t deploy cameras for the sake of appearances but should, rather, look at how they can “integrate this into what we do so we can do better for our community,” Makin said. “If you don’t do that, then you’re just wasting your money.”