Given recent events regarding the disproportionate responses from police officers across the nation and allegations of inappropriate judgment calls, the University of Connecticut police department is taking a proactive step forward.
The actions and reactions of students and police officers will soon be monitored by the UConn police department as a tool for improving officer training, providing transparency and documenting evidence. In a pilot program, seven of the 82 UConn police officers will begin wearing body cameras on duty this summer, according to Daily Campus reporter Annabelle Orlando in a story published on Feb. 19.
This pilot program is a test to observe and address all the problems that may arise when using the cameras. The state’s Public Act 15-4 makes it mandatory for personnel in agencies like the UConn police to wear and use the body cameras by the beginning of July. Surprisingly, though officers across the country have started wearing body cameras, the trend has not caught on in the Northeast. This new tool will be used in supplement to the already in-use dashboard cameras, which are used in patrol cars.
The use of body cameras increases accountability for individual police officers, as without the concrete evidence, accounting for one’s actions no longer becomes the individual’s responsibility as much as the burden of the police department. This change will foster a relationship between students and police officers on campus, as the constant monitoring of interactions will hopefully improves relations.
This tool will prove useful when documenting evidence and reviewing tapes to better tailor training for the officers in the future. Body cameras will also provide a better perspective of situations that may arise when on duty, as the in-car camera has certain limitations when conveying the situation an officer is in outside the vehicle.
Some may object to the claim of increased transparency, as the video is ultimately in the department’s hands and they can control which clips to release to the media. Regardless, this is a step forward. The large majority of police officers are here to serve and abide by the law and do not require a tool to monitor their behavior at all times. However, in the circumstance that there may be a misunderstanding or injustice, this tool can help the department acknowledge issues and improve their service to the campus and the community.