Patrol officers and some detective units have been outfitted with body cameras for some time now. Having personally worn one for many years during my patrol days, I have become an advocate of them. Most of you who know me, know that wasn’t always the case. After several weeks of first wearing them, I found them to be very beneficial, specifically when it came to investigations and disputing false complaints made by citizens.
Remember, every second of body camera footage is subject to a public records request.
While there are huge benefits to having them, there is one downside we all can control. I am referring to our professionalism. We at PLEA have had multiple opportunities to review body-worn camera footage during the course of misconduct investigations. One thing that stands out and makes us cringe is officers who either have become too comfortable with the body-worn technology or have forgotten that it is activated acting less than professional while being recorded. We #8377 all know what is expected when we are contacting citizens, but I am talking about something different.When you make that traffic stop and are back inside your unit running the necessary records checks, or when you are having a sidebar with one of your co-workers regarding the call you are investigating and do not utilize the mute function as permitted by policy, remember, anything you say can be used against you in a misconduct investigation or in a criminal proceeding to discredit you. How embarrassing would it be for you and the Department if a defense attorney played your body camera footage in front of a jury, showing you acting foolish, immature or generally unprofessional? Would you be proud if that footage ended up on the evening news? What kind of confidence does that instill in the public we serve or the upper management of the Department if we are acting in a way that is less than professional? Remember, every second of body camera footage is subject to a public records request.
The best advice I can give you is to guard your words and actions. Always remember that how you carry yourself will reflect either positively or negatively on all of us and is something you have absolute control over.