News Release ~ 03/15/2017

NACDL Issues Groundbreaking Report and Recommendations on Police Body Cameras

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.

Ten Recommendations 

  1. Clear and strictly enforced policies must establish when body cameras will be recording so that the decision of when to record is not left to the discretion of individual police officers.
  2. Video must be stored for a sufficient time to allow the accused to obtain evidence that is exculpatory or may lead to the discovery of exculpatory evidence.
  3. Arrested individuals and their attorneys must be given prompt access to all body camera video pertaining to a case.
  4. Policies must be crafted and equipment must be designed to minimize concerns with the misinterpretation of video.
  5. Police officers should not access body camera video before preparing their initial reports.
  6. Policies must prohibit the use of any biometric technologies in conjunction with body cameras.
  7. Video must not be later viewed to search for additional crimes or take other punitive action against an individual.
  8. Adequate resources must be available to ensure ongoing officer training on body camera use.
  9. Sufficient resources must be available to ensure that counsel are appropriately trained and that appointed counsel have adequate time and access to experts necessary to render effective assistance of counsel.
  10. An independent, non-police agency must retain and control access to body camera footage

NACDL thanks the Foundation for Criminal Justice for its support of the task force and Joel M. Schumm, Clinical Professor of Law at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, for drafting this report.

The report – Policing Body Cameras: Policies and Procedures to Safeguard the Rights of the Accused – is available at www.nacdl.org/policingbodycameras.

All NACDL reports are available at www.nacdl.org/reports.

Free Webinar: NACDL is offering a free webinar on Thursday, April 6, 2017, from 1:30 to 3:30 pm ET, on Policing Body Cameras: Shaping Policies and Defending Cases in Body Camera Jurisdictions. This webinar will walk through the recommendations and talk about how to negotiate stronger body camera policies in your jurisdiction, the technical aspects of body cameras, and strategies and tactics for defending clients in body camera jurisdictions. The webinar is free of charge and will be offered for CLE credit. For more information and to register for this webinar, click here.

Contact

Ivan J. Dominguez, NACDL Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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