States That Require Law Enforcement Officers to Wear Body Cameras
Although there is much confusion and legislation regarding body cameras, a few states have made this a requirement for all their police and law enforcement officers. For those 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. Most of these are phased roll-outs to give time for all agencies to prepare, train officers, and purchase equipment. For example, Colorado joined the list of states with mandated laws, but they go into effect in July 2023. Further still, Illinois implemented a three-year plan starting Jan 2021 based on the population size in each county and city.
States That Are Considering Requiring Body Cameras
While the seven 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.
The main issues surrounding the laws and regulations are disseminating 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 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 cameras 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.
Ideal situations rarely occur, and some leeway must be given. For example, New Jersey and South Carolina implement the law on the contingency that the legislature funds programs. This means capital allocation must be moved around or raised to fund these initiatives properly.
News outlets have criticized the conduct of police officers, both in terms of their response speed and ability to make difficult choices when faced with an angry, scared, or innocent civilian in recent years. Namely, the public outcry about such events as BLM and school shootings has sparked a debate about gun laws, police efficacy, and the need to hold officers accountable for their profession and duty. In response to civilian videos being populated over the internet, states seriously consider mandates so law enforcement officers can share their stories.