In a move designed to increase transparency, accountability, and civilian-officer relations, officers with the Arizona State University Police Department now wear body cameras as part of their uniforms.
ASU purchased 80 cameras that weigh only 3.5 ounces and can record up to 9.5 hours of audio and visual footage. The cameras can also be synchronized with smartphones to help store data in the cloud, and will be worn by almost every officer on the force.
“There are 90 sworn police officers here at ASU so there are only about 10 or 11 of us that aren’t wearing them,” Police Chief Michael Thompson told KTAR, adding those few officers “are command staff level-type people that aren’t out there dealing with the public on a patrol level.”
The decision to equip ASU officers with cameras comes at a time when law enforcement agencies across the country are considering ways to use technology to increase both civilian and officer safety — as New Times has reported before, that debate is alive and well in Phoenix.
But unlike in Phoenix, where the Police Department slowly is purchasing and training officers to use the cameras as part of an ongoing pilot program, ASU decided that there were enough studies proving that the cameras are an effective means to an end.
Take the recent study about body cameras in Phoenix study. “[Our] findings suggest that officer-worn body cameras may increase officer productivity, reduce the number of complaints against officers, decrease the number of founded complaints against them, and increase the effectiveness in which criminal cases are processed in the courts,” writes Charles Katz, researcher and lead author of the study.
Katzh's report also shows that the number of complaints about officers went down 22.5 percent during the pilot period, and that officers wearing the cameras experience a 47.7 percent decline in excessive-use-of-force complaints and a 35 percent drop in verbal-misconduct complaints.
So for Thompson, who says he and the department have been actively researching tactics to improve relations, trust, and proper policing protocol, the cameras present an opportunity “to review some of [the department’s] procedures and also look for ways of improvement” by gathering extra evidence.
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Body cameras, he adds, “are the future of policing.”
Watch a video about the ASU body camera program: