Could Police Body Cameras Have Made A Difference In McKinney? | KERA News

Could Police Body Cameras Have Made A Difference In McKinney?

Jun 15, 2015

Police departments in Texas are outfitting officers with body cameras. Would a body camera have changed what happened with the officer in McKinney?

State Senator Royce West says body cameras would at least help with the investigation of what happened outside of the pool in McKinney. Speaking on Fox 4 he said he wants to make it possible for every patrol officer to have a body camera. 

“Had there not been some video footage of exactly what happened you would have had a he-said, she-said situation between the officers and the students,” West said.

West authored a bill that Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign to help police departments get grants to pay for body cameras.

Police departments across Texas are all at different stages in the process of adopting body cameras.

The Body Camera Boom

In McKinney, school resource officers, our motorcycle officers, bike officers and mounted unit officers wear cameras.  The Dallas Police Department will start deploying 200 cameras at the end of June, and expand to 1,000 cameras by 2020. Fort Worth has about 600 body cameras and aims to have all 800 patrol officers issued cameras.

Former police officer Tim Dees says he doesn’t know a chief who wouldn’t like to deploy cameras throughout his entire patrol force. Dees is a technology columnist for policeone.com.

Cost, Dees says, is the main reason we don’t see more cameras on police. There’s the initial investment – which can be a few hundred dollars a camera – plus the major recurring cost of storing all that video.

In Dallas, the cost of 1,000 cameras is expected to be $825,000. Storage and maintenance for five years will amount to $2.7 million.

Why Spend So Much On Cameras?

Law professor Howard Wasserman says police departments are investing in body cameras and storage space for two main reasons: evidence and deterrence. 

"The thought is that more video is going to help, so if it's from bystanders or body cameras that's all good." 

Wasserman, who is a law professor at FIU College of Law in Miami, says the second reason police are using cameras is because they think the technology might make police and citizens behave better.

This idea took off after a small study in Rialto, California showed complaints against police officers and use of force reports dropped drastically after the officers donned cameras. Most experts agree more research needs to be done to understand why behavior changed. And Wasserman doubts that the McKinney officer would have acted any differently had he been wearing a camera. 

"The ubiquity of cell phone cameras doesn't seem to be imposing all that much deterrence," Wasserman says. At least not yet. 

It might take years before we can determine if police body cameras are worth the cost, he says.