UConn police deserve praise for requiring the use of body cameras

UConn Police Department (UCPD) implemented body cameras on July 1, 2016. Here an officer stands with a K9 member of the force outside of the police department on North Eagleville Road. (File Photo/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut Police Department (UCPD) deserves praise for making a department-wide change and wearing body cameras since July 1 of this year.  

The body cameras, which cost $200,000 dollars, constitute only a small part of the police department’s budget. There’s also a chance that the department will be reimbursed for the body cameras by a state grant, according to a recent Daily Campus report.

After completing the due diligence of a trial run, which UCPD Chief Hans Rhynhart said ran smoothly, making a couple minor changes, UCPD outfitted the entire force with body cameras.

Having body cameras allows police to review situations in question for missing details or to settle a disagreement. This type of surveillance can also act to keep both police officers and students safer within their exchanges. The existence of a body camera inherently reduces the chances of an official or a student being violent. Knowing that you are being taped will only increase professionalism on the part of the police and reduce recklessness and danger on the part of students, serving as a mutually beneficial tool.

Due to increasing awareness and public concern over violence, and sometimes fatal interactions between police and unarmed citizens (most notably minorities), there has been an increased call for body cameras. Two years ago, President Obama introduced $75 million in federal funding for body cameras. It is encouraging to see the UCPD respond to this and convincing studies, like one from the University of South Florida, which compared officers with and without body cameras, finding, “In the 12 months from March 2014 through February 2015, use-of-force incidents — also known as “response to resistance” incidents — dropped 53 percent among officers with the cameras. Civilian complaints against those officers also saw a 65 percent decline.”

Police departments in Boston, Minneapolis and San Francisco, among many other cities, have come to agreements on bearing body cameras. A national poll found that 86 percent of Americans support the wearing of body cameras. This shows that in the contentious conversation over policing and eliminating police brutality, most people can agree upon the use of body cameras to increase accountability.  

Universities in Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey and North Carolina, to name a few, have begun to have their police forces wear body cameras. This is a major step in the way of community policing. UConn’s vision on this topic is to be lauded. Perhaps the confines of campus can become an incubator in the process of mandated body cameras.