While other states have embraced the use of police body cameras, Pennsylvania
has been hesitant to adopt the new technology. This is mainly due to state
wiretap law concerning citizen privacy: recording audio and video without
consent, in many cases, can be illegal. These restrictions, however, may
be facing a change. As
CBS Pittsburgh reports, new legislature submitted to the state government is looking
to amend wiretap law and allow police departments establish new body camera policies.
One such bill is Senate Bill 483, submitted by Senator Jim Brewster. "For
folks who have ever been out with an officer and see how quick things
happen, how seconds can turn into life-threatening events, this is just
a practical extension of the law that protects everyone," Brewster
told the press.
Some departments, like Clairton Police, do use a limited amount of body
cameras, but must turn them off when they enter a home or building. Still,
Clairton Police Chief Robert Hoffman admitted to CBS, even with intermittent
use, his department's body cameras have made a huge difference in
investigating and solving crimes—and decreasing officer complaints.
An inevitable change to our criminal justice system?
Because body cameras are so new, it is hard to forecast what change could
have on our criminal justice system. While many departments feel that
they bring an unprecedented accuracy to their work, others are worried
about civil liberty issues. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example,
is working with Senator Brewster to hone SB 483's language so that
it equally protects both citizens and police.
However, there is a strong sentiment among many lawmakers and police departments
that this technology ultimately represents the future of policing and
will benefit society as a whole. "This is a tool that the officers
can have," Senator Brewster told the press. "It protects the
citizens, it protects the officers.”
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