According to The Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2002, there were over 26,000 official police brutality complaints across the nation.
That’s a rate of 6.6 complaints for every 100 full-time officers. Of those complaints, eight percent resulted in disciplinary action. That means that only about one in every 200 police officers accused of excessive force were actually punished.
Measures implemented by a small California city, however, might be reversing that narrative, as well the broader narrative of police brutality all together.
After the city of Rialto required its 70 police officers to wear portable video cameras on the job, police brutality statistics fell by 60 percent, according to a controlled study recorded by the department. In 2012 alone, complaints against Rialto police officers fell 88 percent.
Rialto Police Chief William A. Farrar says the cameras aren’t just beneficial for his officers. “When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better,” Frarrar said. “And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better[too].”
At up to $900 per camera, the cost of phasing in officer cams in major cities promises to be immense. Nonetheless, cities like New York, Albuquerque, Fort Worth, and Oakland are considering implementing the devices and even England is starting small-scale trial programs.
Some privacy advocates however have demeaned the practice as invasive. Even though arrests and encounters with police are a matter of public record, Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the program as it was getting off the ground back in 2013.
“We don’t like the networks of police-run video cameras that are being set up in an increasing number of cities,” Stanley said. “We don’t think the government should be watching over the population en masse.”
Stanley would actually later concede after the results of the Rialto study were announced saying, “Although we generally take a dim view of the proliferation of surveillance cameras in American life, police on-body cameras are different because of their potential to serve as a check against the abuse of power by police officers.”
Now matter your opinion on public privacy, what can’t be denied is the impact police cams are having for citizens. Local Rialto resident, Bill Coolidge, spoke with Police State Daily about the increased accountability in his town.
“The effect is promising. Even in our small town, police brutality was not uncommon,” Coolidge said. “We all can tell a big difference.”