Investigation raises questions about police body cameras

Posted at 8:27 PM, Jun 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-09 09:13:30-04
Police body cameras have provided key pieces of evidence when solving crimes, particularly in officer-involved shootings. However, the investigation into the recent shooting in Appleton revealed that the officer was unable to turn her body camera on before the incident, raising questions about policies when it comes to those cameras.
In Appleton, police body cameras replaced dashboard cameras after the dash cams became outdated, according to Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas. The body cameras do not run 24 hours per day because of the amount of storage it would require.
Sometimes, police departments have to pay to store the video, said Oshkosh Police Officer Mike Hotter. Oshkosh Police just equipped all patrol and school resource officers with body cameras about a month ago.
"Our cameras will always be kind of in a standby mode," Officer Hotter said. "As we get out of our squad cars, or make contact with a citizen, that's when we'll actually activate our cameras."
Cameras also aren't turned on when there are concerns of privacy, such as when a person does not want an officer recording if they enter their home and there is not an active police situation.
Officer Hotter says with the new technology, officers sometimes forget to start the camera. However, there's a protocol for monitoring that kind of situation.
"We do have to document that in our computer system when we complete our reports," said Officer Hotter.
The cameras have been helpful so far, said Officer Hotter.
"It helps maybe with [suspect's] behavior, sometimes if they're upset," he said. "But it also keeps us accountable to how we're treating people as well."
In addition, it's helped in providing evidence for investigations, even with some glitches.