States That Require Law Enforcement Officers to Wear Body Cameras
Although there is much confusion and legislation regarding body cameras, there are a few states that have made this a requirement for all their police and law enforcement officers. For those that are not wearing body cams, a proper reason must be stated for doing so. These states are Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Carolina. The need for body cameras on police officers has arisen because of the public outcry about the conduct of all officers. While this may seem like a move that is a direct result of public action, wearing body cams also protects the officers from allegations against them. It also holds them to a higher professional standard, especially if the law enforcement unit must draw their weapons in a situation.
Ideal situations rarely occur, and some leeway must be given. For example, NJ and SC implement the law on the contingency that programs are funded by the legislature. This means that capital allocation must be moved around, or raised, in order to properly fund these initiatives.
States That Are Considering Adjustments Prior to Starting
While the 7 states listed above have mandated this, currently 34 states and the District of Columbia are attempting to form legislation surrounding the use of body cams, especially for law enforcement officers. Some of the states who have passed legislation are doing so in a phased rollout approach, meaning that they want to allow agencies to provide equipment and policies in order to train their officers. For example, Colorado joined the list of states with mandated laws, but they do not go into effect until July 2023. Further still, Illinois implemented a three-year plan that is starting Jan 2021 based on the size of the population in each county and city.
The main issues surrounding the laws and regulations are the dissemination of footage and making it available to the public. Of course, there are certain circumstances where agencies cannot post everything they have recorded, as it would either encroach on the privacy of the individual being filmed or may leak confidential material that is important to the safety and security of the public and the station. As such, much of the footage cannot be released unless it is for specified statutory purposes.
Why Mandates Are Being Put in Place
The US has been in the lines of fire in recent years, due to the world and domestic events in the media. For example, news outlets have criticized the conduct of police officers, both in terms of their response speed and their ability to make difficult choices when faced with an angry, scared, or innocent civilian. Namely, the public outcry about such events as BLM and school shootings has sparked a debate about gun laws, police efficacy, and the need for holding everyone accountable for their profession and their duty. In response to civilian videos being populated over the internet, mandates are seriously being considered in each state so that each law enforcement officer can share their side of the story.