In the past, citizens and media had to rely on eyewitness testimony to hold law enforcement accountable. But with the advent of citizen cell phone technology, they can also protect themselves against false allegations. Now police officers have to be aware that their actions are recorded, which helps ensure they will be accountable for their actions.
Innovation has given members of the public the ability to record and document both their own as well as law enforcement’s actions. This ensures that police officers will be more aware of their actions and will ensure accountability.
In the past 4 years, groups have formed nationwide like Copwatch, Justice Everywhere, and several others. These groups are using citizen recordings to document police interactions with citizens as well as incidents of abuse. Following the death of Michael Brown, The Black Lives Matter movement began. One of their tools in this movement has been citizen recordings of police officers. The Black Lives Matter movement has also made it more acceptable to record the police on your cell phone. Now more than ever, many private citizen cell recordings are circulating the internet.
From Michael Brown to Walter Scott, the public’s attitude towards police and filming law enforcement has shifted. In the wake of these tragedies, citizen-filmed footage has been used to assist in indicting charges against police officers.
When citizens record the police, law enforcement officers know that every action will be observed and recorded, and these records have proven that police are more accountable. Citizens recording police have helped improve the actions of law enforcement and continue to strike an important balance between law enforcement agencies and their communities.
Law Enforcement Agencies need to embrace the presence of civilian cell phone recordings as a sign of a healthy society and support their authority. The presence of civilian cell phone recordings has been historically beneficial in reducing citizen complaints against police and overall increasing public trust in local law enforcement agencies. This would serve both the community at large as well as the law enforcement agencies themselves.
I think that it is a very good idea for law enforcement officers not to be bothered when citizens use their phones to record what they do on duty. One main reason is that this can keep police honest in their dealings with the public and their fellow officers. The vast majority of cops are honest and law-abiding, but in a society where the cops have guns and the public doesn’t, respecting the people who have no weapons and cannot hurt you can be difficult for some members of law enforcement.