Body-worn police cameras, which just a few years ago sounded futuristic or fanciful, are about to go big-time. The Los Angeles Police Department is seeking cameras for all of its officers, and the New York Police Department faces a court-ordered pilot program for some of its cops on the beat.
Turning every officer into a cameraman, proponents say, can cut down on civilian complaints and excessive force. In New Orleans, supporters hope they can keep the city's notoriously dysfunctional police department in check. But the flip side of the coin is that when every cop is a RoboCop, everyone's privacy might be at risk.
In a new policy paper out Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union outlined its recommendations for making sure the cameras protect privacy.
The ACLU said body camera videos should not be capable of being edited at an officer's will, notice should be provided when encounters are being recorded, there should be strict standards for when videos are kept on file, and tape should only be released to the public in limited circumstances.
"The ACLU supports the use of cop cams for the purpose of police accountability and oversight," the group stated in a blog post. "It's vital that this technology not become a backdoor for any kind of systematic surveillance or tracking of the public."