Washington, DC (Mar. 15, 2017) — The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), with support from the Foundation for Criminal Justice (FCJ), today releases Policing Body Cameras: Policies and Procedures to Safeguard the Rights of the Accused. This report is the product of more than two years of careful research and deliberation. In this report, NACDL endorses the continued and wider use of body cameras as long as they are implemented with NACDL’s policy recommendations, which are set forth below and in the report. With these protections in place, body cameras have the potential to better document encounters between police officers and civilians while mitigating competing concerns about their potential for misuse or abuse. The report and recommendations represent an important contribution to critical conversations and policymaking taking place throughout the country.
In response to a series of high-profile police killings of unarmed people of color, law enforcement agencies across the country began adopting body cameras as a solution to requests for more transparency and accountability. In order to study the impact of body cameras on the rights of the accused, NACDL established a Body Camera Task Force comprised of defense attorneys from across the country. The Task Force heard from a wide variety of experts, from law enforcement, the defense community, academics, technologists, and public interest groups, and studied academic reports and technical materials before compiling a list of ten recommendations to protect the rights of the accused in body camera jurisdictions.
“With police-civilian encounters escalating into tragedy with alarming frequency, many cities are turning to the use of police body worn cameras in an effort to increase police accountability,” NACDL President and Co-Chair of NACDL’s Body Camera Task Force Barry J. Pollack said. “With this groundbreaking report, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers examines both the potential benefits of the use of body worn cameras and the considerable concerns presented by their use. NACDL’s report sets forth a comprehensive list of guidelines for the implementation and use of body worn cameras. It should be required reading for policy makers and police departments across the country.”
“The task force assigned to this report — all highly qualified, experienced practitioners and legal scholars–spent countless hours over many months preparing this report,” explained Steven R. Morrison, who co-chairs NACDL’s Body Camera Task Force. “The report has benefitted from the comments of a number of witnesses, including media experts, public defenders, police chiefs, court officials, politicians, law enforcement representatives, and others. The result is an objective report that furthers the criminal justice goals of truth in investigations and trials, effective policing through the creation of a fuller evidentiary record, and the protection of civilians from police abuses, including unwarranted shootings.”
NACDL’s Senior Privacy and National Security Counsel Jumana Musa said: “NACDL understands that body cameras are not a panacea. They should be seen as one part of a much larger effort to overhaul a criminal justice system in desperate need of reform. Most importantly, body cameras should not be used with other technologies to increased police surveillance powers.”
The recommendations set forth in detail in this report will maximize cameras’ use in protecting the public and the police alike, and in generating reliable criminal justice outcomes. Those recommendations are summarized below.