The Los Angeles Times reports that local police departments nationwide are increasingly attaching body cameras to officers. This has raised privacy and civil liberties questions. The Times reports:
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department, along with police in New York, Chicago and Washington, have launched pilot programs to test cameras for wider deployment.
But equipping police with such devices also raises new and unsettled issues over privacy at a time when many Americans have been critical of the kind of powerful government surveillance measures that technology has made possible.
For many departments, questions remain about when officers should be allowed to turn off such cameras — especially in cases involving domestic violence or rape victims — and the extent to which video could be made public. […]
Video from dashboard cameras in police cars, a more widely used technology, has long been exploited for entertainment purposes. Internet users have posted dash-cam videos of arrests of naked women to YouTube, and TMZ sometimes obtains police videos of athletes and celebrities during minor or embarrassing traffic stops, turning officers into unwitting paparazzi.
Officers wearing body cameras could extend that public eye into living rooms or bedrooms, should a call require them to enter a private home. […]
A recent federal survey of 63 law enforcement agencies using body cameras said nearly a third of the agencies had no written policy on the devices. (It is not known how many agencies overall currently use body cameras.) […]
For that reason, experts and privacy advocates have encouraged departments to adopt policies that include allowing victims and reluctant witnesses to be filmed only with their consent.
The newly released federal report also suggests that departments should clearly outline policies for how long they will keep video recordings before deletion; 60- or 90-day holding periods are common, unless the video is used as criminal evidence or has been flagged in a complaint.