Race and Policing
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Our research has revealed that many police departments are failing to adopt adequate safeguards to ensure that constitutional rights are protected. In particular, we have discovered that year after year, the vast majority of the nation's leading police departments with body-worn camera programs allow unrestricted footage review – meaning, officers are permitted to review footage from body-worn cameras whenever they'd like, including before writing their incident reports or making statements.This report seeks to illuminate the ways that unrestricted footage review places civil rights at risk and undermines the goals of transparency and accountability. We urge police departments to instead adopt what we call "clean reporting," a simple two-step process where an initial report is recorded based only on an officer's independent recollection of an event and then a second, supplemental report can be added to a case file to address any clarifications after footage is reviewed. We make the case that in the interests of consistency, fairness, transparency and accountability, clean reporting should be adopted as a standard practice for all police departments with body-worn camera programs.
In the wake of high-profile incidents in Ferguson, Staten Island, North Charleston, Baltimore, and elsewhere, law enforcement agencies across the country have rapidly adopted body-worn cameras for their officers. One of the main selling points for these cameras is their potential to provide transparency into some police interactions, and to help protect civil rights, especially in heavily policed communities of color.But accountability is not automatic. Whether these cameras make police more accountable — or simply intensifies police surveillance of communities — depends on how the cameras and footage are used. That's why The Leadership Conference, together with a broad coalition of civil rights, privacy, and media rights groups, developed shared Civil Rights Principles on body-worn Cameras. Our principles emphasize that "[w]ithout carefully crafted policy safeguards in place, there is a real risk that these new devices could become instruments of injustice, rather than tools for accountability."This scorecard evaluates the body-worn camera policies currently in place in major police departments across the country. Our goal is to highlight promising approaches that some departments are taking, and to identify opportunities where departments could improve their policies.