ATLANTA, GA – TECH – In a time of deep partisan divide, no other issue has united Americans like the need for police body cameras that will reliably record interactions with citizens and criminal suspects. A new nation-wide poll released today by Utility shows nearly 9 out of 10 people (89%) support equipping officers with body cameras. This unanimity crosses all political divides among Democrats (91%), Republicans (88%) and Independents (90%).
“I know of no other significant issue facing this country in which almost all Americans are in agreement,” said Keith Frederick, of FrederickPolls. The poll not only examined people’s views on police body cameras, but also the competing technologies that are now available.
Assuming the cost is about the same, 94 percent of respondents recommend having a police body camera that can send an automatic “Officer Down” emergency location report to Central Police Dispatch. 87 percent of survey participants want body cameras with automatic recording Start compared to a body camera that uses a manual on-off switch controlled by the officer. 86 percent of respondents want police body camera video recorded in High Definition. 80 percent prefer officers to have the body camera embedded in the officer’s body armor vest as opposed to a camera clipped onto the uniform that can easily fall off during a struggle as indicated by several recent news reports.
“It is notable the public considers automatic location reporting of ‘Officer Down’ situations to Police Central Dispatch as the most important and desirable feature of an advanced police body camera,” said Frederick. “This shows the public has a very strong concern and support for police officer safety. Furthermore, 89 percent of U.S. voters, regardless of demographic, express a decisive preference for advanced technology included in 2nd Generation police body cameras,” stated Frederick. “There is a near-universal awareness of controversial police-citizen incidents over the past year, and a desire to fix what many reportedly view as a flawed system. Such unified opinion creates a strong political imperative for action.”
“This survey proves people feel more comfortable with police officers wearing body cameras that automatically start video recording than they are with manually controlled video recording devices,” said Robert McKeeman, CEO of Utility. “Americans overwhelmingly want police departments to use body cameras, but the public needs to trust the technology. They need to be sure it’s capable of reliably enhancing transparency and accountability between officers and the community. Police department policy-based recording software control eliminates human error and racial bias, and is the only reliable way to make full transparency and accountability a reality. The opinion of the people is clear; ignoring this consensus cannot be justified.”
The findings were the result of a national survey conducted by FrederickPolls, LLC — one of the country’s leading issue and political campaign polling firms. FrederickPolls interviewed a random nationwide sampling of 1,000 registered voters — ranging in demographic, location and political affiliation — to provide a representative cross section of the American population.
Along with a strong preference for automatic policy-based video recording, 72 percent of those polled indicated they prefer a system capable of automatically uploading video immediately as it is recorded, as opposed to officers after the end of their shift back at the police station manually plugging their body camera into a docking station to upload video. 89 percent of the public sees a benefit in Police Central Dispatch being able to remotely start video recording for all police body cameras in an area, as well as sending immediate Be On The Lookout (BOLO) alerts with pictures and text to all body cameras within a specified area for incidents such as the Boston Marathon bombing. In a similar manner, Silver and Amber alerts can be sent to all police officer body-worn cameras immediately rather handing out paper flyers at the next police shift Roll Call.
“A lot of the findings were common sense. If a body camera is intended to build trust through transparency and accountability, then the body camera cannot have transparency and accountability shortcomings that could break that trust,” said McKeeman. “Being a police officer is a dangerous job that deserves our appreciation. But serious transparency and accountability doubts will be raised if video is not recorded because an officer in the heat of the moment forgets to press a manual video recording start button, or video of an incident where a citizen is shot and killed is not captured because the camera gets knocked off the officer’s head or uniform at the start of an altercation, as happened recently in Draper, Utah. These are scenarios police departments across the nation encounter daily and need to consider when making a major investment in police body camera technology.”