In recent years, multiple officer-involved shootings that have received national attention from the public, law enforcement agencies, and civil rights organizations in recent years. Throughout the United States, there is a rise in both the interest and the use of body cameras on police officers.
The common belief is that the presence of police body cameras would reduce complaints of police misconduct or abuse, and protect residents from overzealous officers during arrests. Police officers are often more careful about the following protocol when they are aware their actions are being recorded. When they do, the footage can protect them by providing evidence that they have made a legal arrest and they followed the proper procedures.
In addition, such footage of arrests would enable the judge and jury to review every single detail of the interactions between police and the citizens suspected of criminal offenses. There have been several cases where body camera footage has led to the defendant’s charges being dropped due to unlawful arrest procedures or inconsistent victim/witness accounts.
So when it comes to building a criminal defense strategy, police body camera footage has the potential to benefit a defendant’s case by doing the following:
- Protect a defendant against false claims of criminal activity or abuse of authority
- Provide courts with indisputable evidence of an arrest
- Aides in a defendant’s and witness’ account of the arrest
Many criminal cases boil down to a credibility contest between law enforcement and the alleged offenders. Whether consciously or subconsciously, some consider an officer’s account as concrete evidence. Cases that are heavily based on officer testimony go to trial in courts in California and throughout the country, at a significant financial cost.
And that is how body camera footage comes into play for the defense. With the use of such footage as evidence, many cases have been dismissed or gone uncharged when video fails to support the officer’s account.