Police Body Cameras in Texas
What is a body camera?
Most people follow the national news either online, on TV, newspapers, radio or a mixture of sources. If you’ve followed the national news in the past 6-8 months you’d see that more and more people are second guessing the actions of police officers and the citizens they come into contact with. Body cameras are about the size of old flip phones. They can clip onto officers’ clothing and they record whatever is put in front of them. Body cameras save digital video which can later be used as evidence. These videos are also part of criminal discovery in Texas when a criminal case is filed against someone. I always request the video footage if available. Lately there has been a national and statewide push for law enforcement agencies to purchase, issue, and maintain body cameras for officers.
How do body cameras work?
Body cameras can be turned on or off with a switch. Depending on the departments policies, body cameras must be active at all times the officer is on duty or they may be turned on or off by the officer. There are pros and cons to each option. The pro of having the body camera on during an officer’s entire shift is that EVERYTHING is recorded. This leaves less chance that the either the officer or the citizen can dispute the events that occurred. The cons to leaving the cameras on during the entire shift is that huge amounts of storage are required for camera-video data. The con of allowing an officer to turn a camera off at will opens departments up to claims of improper editing or purposefully leaving the cameras off. Either way, these cameras serve to protect law enforcement and citizens. If either the police or the citizen behaves improperly, the video won’t lie. A camera only records what is put in front of it.
Do body cams help or hurt my case?
Body cams can help and hurt your case. The answer, like most problems in life, is it depends. If there is evidence of police misconduct on the video, that can hurt the officer’s credibility later on if you are charged with a crime. On the other hand, if you are on video acting aggressively, being rude, and seen as a threat, this can hurt your case a great deal.
Why? Ultimately, all the video will be played for a jury. A jury will decide if you broke the law. However, their impression of you or the officer from the video will weigh in on the jurors’ minds. Keep that in mind the next time you’re interacting with police. Always be polite to police and remember that they have a job to do as well. The best thing you can do is to identify yourself and not answer any questions. You have the right to remain silent and you shouldn’t make their case against you stronger. This applies even at the beginning of a stop.
Be aware that cameras are everywhere and anywhere now. Use of Police body cameras in Texas is on the rise. Body cameras can protect the police and the citizens from claims of misconduct such as being aggressive, illegally searching a person or car, or whether or not the citizen accused actually committed a crime. Almost all of any video recorded, and later used against you, will be played in front of a jury if you go to trial. Keep that in mind next time you’re dealing with police.