Part of being on the cutting edge of anything means that we have to pay particular attention to the lessons learned. The NOPD has been on the cutting edge of body worm cameras in law enforcement and we have learned some lessons. One that comes to mind is there was a case where the arresting officer asked one simple question that proved to be problematic. What was clear from the video was that he asked that question after the suspect was in custody (custodial interrogation) without first advising the suspect of his right to remain silent. As you can imagine, the statements were excluded and the case was lost as a result – lesson learned.
Recently, it has been brought to my attention that text messaging has become an issue. The BWC sits at center mass and records everything. At times an officer’s use of a cell phone for the purpose of sending and receiving text messages has been recorded clearly. The recording is clear enough to read the screen of the officer’s phone. Now, it may very well be the text message is from the officer’s wife asking her husband to stop on the way home for milk. It could be to the officer’s supervisor about the case at hand.
The text messages can become evidence. It can lead to the officer’s personal phone records being subpoenaed. It might become Brady material. What is the lesson learned? Wait until the camera is off before reading and sending text messages, unless you want to risk your private communications becoming less than private.
If you have your own experience you would like to share with your colleagues, please do so. You can either do it here in the comments, or you can email me and I will add it to this article or start a new one. It is important that we share these experiences so we can avoid problems. Like it or not, we will remain on the cutting edge with regard to BWC’s, at least for the foreseeable future.