Recent Officer-Involved Shootings Urge Acceptance of Body Cameras

An officer's body-worn camera records a traffic stop. (Photo Courtesy: AP Photo/Jim Mone)
An officer’s body-worn camera records a traffic stop. (Photo Courtesy: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Within a day of the fatal shooting of Walter Scott, a 50-year-old man shot in the back while fleeing Officer Michael Slager, the North Charleston mayor vowed body cameras for the city’s entire police force.

Video evidence captured by a bystander shows Slager dropping his stun gun and firing eight shots at the fleeing man, who had just stood up from a tussle on the ground. Slager had initially stated that he feared for his life and shot in self-defense after Scott attempted to take his weapon, but the video tells a different, more irrefutable story – one that would have been lost without a camera present.

It isn’t the first time officials have pushed for body cameras to capture officer’s interactions in the wake of a controversial officer-involved shooting. The August 2014 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, MO incited protests and violent riots nationwide, and pulled law enforcement under the spotlight of intense scrutiny. Officer Wilson claimed he shot in self-defense after a struggle over his weapon, but in the absence of video evidence to support him, investigations were drawn out as witnesses offered different and conflicting accounts of what had transpired.

Ferguson Police Department officers appeared on the streets wearing cameras within a month of the controversial shooting. Prominent body-worn camera creator VIEVU said sales for the technology increased 70% in the aftermath of Ferguson, as departments rushed to reduce the risk of a similar controversy.

State law enforcement in South Carolina will receive 50 body cameras for testing over the next two weeks. While Governor Nikki Haley maintains that issuing the cameras is unrelated to the Walter Scott shooting in North Charleston, SC, the Department of Protective Services assures citizens that they are providing the latest body-worn video technology, training and evidence management to officers “in light of recent high-profile incidents.”

The White House has also shown its support for body cameras with a funding project for $263 million toward purchasing over 50,000 of the devices for police departments nationwide.

Body-worn video cameras help keep officers accountable for their actions, but also exonerates them in incidents where citizens make false accusations.

For departments currently utilizing body-worn cameras or agencies who have just adopted the technology after recent news, Net Transcripts offers transcription of video captured from nearly any device. Receiving transcripts of video can accelerate investigations and aid in evidence management. Contact us to learn more about transcription of body-worn video.