After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, activists around the country called for police departments to adopt body cameras. If the officer who shot Brown had been wearing one, the thinking went, the public would know what happened -- and whether the officer acted appropriately. Police departments, it turned out, were just as eager to have this tool. Many officers see body cameras as a chance to show how difficult their jobs are day in and day out.
That’s one finding from our months-long reporting on how body cameras are changing policing in Colorado. More than a quarter of law enforcement agencies in the state are already using the cameras, and several more, including big ones like Denver, are in the midst of a roll-out. Pretty soon, if you get pulled over anywhere on the Northern Front Range, where the vast majority of Colorado’s population lives, you likely will be on tape. And, state lawmakers are currently debating whether to set statewide policies for the cameras’ use.
Colorado Public Radio News explored this subject extensively. We created a database showing which departments are using them or plan to. We had a series of conversations on Colorado Matters to analyze videos that have both exonerated and implicated police officers; learn how body cameras have changed policing in other Western states; examine privacy concerns and look into the future when body cameras could come with facial recognition software. We sent a reporter on a police ride-along to show body cameras in action. The result is a series full of context to help citizens know their rights and what to expect out on the streets, and serve law enforcement agencies as they set policies for body camera use in their areas. Our reporting was cited in one study that we know of by a Minneapolis police oversight commission.