The New Orleans Police Department has been on the cutting edge of the body worn camera movement in law enforcement. As such, the policies that were developed here in New Orleans were not based on the myriad of experiences of other departments around the country. On the contrary, the NOPD’s policies were looked at and adopted by other departments which were new to the BWC game. There was a national FOP BWC Committee whose goal was to develop a model “best practice” policy, and the resultant policy closely resembled the policy of the New Orleans Police Department.
One thing I think we have all accepted is that part of being at the forefront of a new movement in law enforcement means that the policies should be reviewed and revised regularly to accommodate officers’ real-world experiences.
For example, the FOP has said from the beginning, and I believe it is still worth repeating on a regular basis, that the video does not tell the whole story. Furthermore, the video and the officer’s perception could vary in significant ways. While I believe that everyone recognizes this as the truth, it is difficult to resist drawing conclusions entirely based on video evidence. Why not include a statement to this effect in the policy? I believe in setting realistic expectations and readers of the NOPD policy on BWC’s should have realistic expectations about the evidentiary value of BWC videos.
I have seen and heard some confusion about when cameras should be activated and when they should be deactivated. For example, the Policy 447.5 discussed turning the recorder off, but does not discuss turning the camera on. Procedure 447.4(c) states that the BWC should be placed in Event Record Mode “as soon as practical at the onset of a given situation.” I have seen this interpreted differently by different people in different circumstances. Perhaps there is a better way to narrow down when the BWC should be set to record.
The purpose of this article is not for me to sit here and say how the policy should read. The FOP would like to solicit input from its members using the BWC on a daily basis. What we are looking for is input from the end-user as to how the policy/procedure could be improved based on your experience. If you are a supervisor, we are interested in your perspective as a supervisor. Please use the form below to send any suggestions. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. Information collected will be kept confidential. Names and emails are collected only to legitimize responses and avoid spam.