Body-Mounted Police Cameras: A Primer on Police Accountability vs. Privacy

10 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2016

See all articles by Kami Chavis

Kami Chavis

Wake Forest University Law School

Date Written: 2015


Immediately following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Eric Gardner at the hands of a New York Police Department officer, criminal justice advocates called for greater measures to hold police officers accountable for their actions. For many observers, the failure to secure criminal indictments against the officers involved in each of these deaths of unarmed citizens suggested various shortcomings in the criminal justice system. In the wake of these deaths and others, President Obama signed an order establishing the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a body of scholars, practitioners, and policymakers that would examine ways to improve distrust between communities and police. Yet in the weeks following the release of the Task Force's report, a North Charleston police officer fatally shot Walter Scott in the back and protests erupted in Baltimore, Maryland after Freddie Gray died of injuries sustained while in police custody.' These deaths have reignited many debates about myriad reform proposals that experts have discussed throughout history.

One of the most hotly contested reform proposals involves requiring police officers to wear body cameras. Body-mounted cameras are not a new technology, and the number of police departments using them is increasing. However, a 2013 study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum found that less than 25 percent of the 254 departments surveyed were using the cameras. Even many of the agencies that are using the cameras are racing to develop sound policies for their use. Similarly, a number of state legislatures have introduced bills to regulate the use of police body cameras. This essay highlights some of the emerging issues and policy implications with respect to body cameras and raises questions for future study.

Keywords: Police, Body-Mounted Cameras, Body Camera Policy, Police Misconduct

Suggested Citation

Chavis, Kami, Body-Mounted Police Cameras: A Primer on Police Accountability vs. Privacy (2015). Howard Law Journal, Vol. 58, No. 3, 2015. Available at SSRN:

Kami Chavis (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

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