Op-Ed: How to save a life, the effects of on-body police cameras


“Cop cams” are cameras that are on the body of the police officer at all times. Its purpose is to protect both the officer and public from wrongful violence. In this picture a student holds up a camera as if taking a picture. Photographer: Haley Kerner ’16

By Haley Kerner

Recently, a major topic of debate in the U.S. is the question of on-body police cameras.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) website, “‘On-officer recording systems” (also called “body cams” or “cop cams”) are small, pager-sized cameras that clip on to an officer’s uniform or are worn as a headset, and record audio and video of the officer’s interactions with the public.”

After fatal shootings of black men have sparked a frenzy of race-centered protests and riots, it seems that the majority of people would choose to have police wear cameras.

On one hand, having body cameras means that the police and suspect in question are monitored by more than the officers on the scene. There is no doubt that these cameras could keep the streets safer and maybe even keep more people alive.

According to a New York Times article, Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “There are many police officers who’ve had a cloud fall over them because of an unfounded accusation of abuse,” he said. “Now police officers won’t have to worry so much about that kind of thing.”

However, there is also the question of a lack of privacy. According to the ACLU, requiring police officers to wear cameras has the potential to invade privacy as police officers often enter homes and encounter suspects, victims and bystanders sometimes in intense, stressful or embarrassing situations.

After reading a lot on this topic, I still question my own opinion on whether or not police departments should require on-officer cameras. However, the cameras would keep the officer honest and would shed light on otherwise false situations.

The videos from the cameras would be logged at the police station, preventing officers from leaving civilians with warnings.

For example, if an officer found underage drinking at a party, they would not have the ability to let the minors off with a warning and call their parents. The officer would be forced to arrest them. Although this may scare the minors into not drinking underage, it may also foster a sense of resentment.

Although these are both viable reasons to not have “cop cams,” the positive effects outweigh the negatives. If the cameras can save a life, it is our duty as a nation to have the system installed.