AMU Emergency Management Law Enforcement Original Public Safety

Why Every Public Safety Agency Should Use Body Cameras

By Allison G. S. Knox
Edge Contributor

Transparency and accountability can have an enormous impact on citizen satisfaction with their government. Because public safety agencies are paid for by municipalities, they are viewed by citizens as extensions of the government.

Consequently, transparency and accountability should apply not only to public safety agencies, but they should also undergo regular evaluation and improvement. One way to ensure transparency and accountability is through the use of body cameras. These video cameras should be utilized by every department at the local level, including police, fire and emergency medical services.

The Controversy over Using Body Cameras

However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding public safety agencies and the use of body cameras. One article from Range suggests that the use of body cameras can “impede on the job of a police officer.”  

Bodycams allow for better objectivity in 911 calls that may go wrong. If someone alleges mistreatment by a first responder and no one else was there to witness it, a bodycam provides an objective, unbiased story of what happened during a 911 call. The body camera can therefore provide protection for first responders against wrongful lawsuits.

Communities Need to Find Room in Their Tight Budgets for Body Cameras

Many municipalities do not have a large budget for public safety agencies. For some communities, this budget can be particularly tight.

It is important, however, for public safety agencies to have body cameras. This technology will create a more trustworthy relationship between the citizens and first responders if these unbiased cameras are utilized.

Transparency and accountability can be subjective and difficult to measure, and perspectives about a 911 call can vary from person to person. But body cameras are a step in the right direction to help communities to feel confident in their public safety agencies that respond to fire, police and EMS calls.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. She is also chair of Pi Gamma Mu’s Leadership Development Program. Prior to teaching, Allison worked for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. She is an emergency medical technician and holds four master’s degrees.

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