A civil rights coalition has found that police departments are not doing enough to protect citizens' civil rights and privacy as they implement the use of body-worn cameras.
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and technology analysis group Upturn released a scorecard Tuesday evaluating the civil rights safeguards of body-worn camera policies for 50 major city police departments.
The scorecard found that no police department fully met all eight criteria the group looks at, and only 13 were able to fulfill more than two criteria. Two police departments failed in all eight criteria: Ferguson, Mo., and Fresno, Calif. And no department has procedures for keeping an officer from reviewing body-worn camera footage before filing an incident report about an encounter, which is one of the criteria.
The original scorecard, released in November, listed the eight criteria, scored as fully, partially or not at all:
- Makes its policy publicly and readily available
- Limits officer discretion on when to record
- Addresses personal privacy concerns
- Prohibits officer pre-report viewing
- Limits retention of footage
- Protects footage against tampering and misuse
- Makes footage available to individuals filing complaints
- Limits the use of biometric technologies
Four police departments in Cincinnati, Chicago, Parker, Colo., and Washington now have procedures to allow recorded individuals to review the footage of them on camera if they seek to file a police misconduct complaint, seen as a positive change.
"As police departments across the nation begin to equip more officers with body cameras, it is imperative to recognize that cameras are just a tool – not a substitute – for broader reforms of policing practices," Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference, said Tuesday. "Without carefully crafted policy safeguards, these devices could become instruments of injustice rather than tools of accountability."
The scorecard did highlight some positive changes made across departments.
The San Francisco Police Department, for example, has a website that dedicated to the development of its body-worn camera program, which provides details about its biweekly working group meetings on the program. Dallas and Las Vegas's police have a policy requiring the deletion of footage not deemed necessary after a certain amount of time, thus protecting the privacy of those individuals filmed.
The full scorecard can be found here.
In May, dozens of civil rights groups — including the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP — signed onto the Leadership Conference's criteria for police body-worn cameras.
The move for more police departments to use body-worn cameras came amid a series of high-profile fatal police involved shootings.