Rialto, Calif.’s police are first in nation to begin wearing mini camera while on duty
The Rialto, Calif. Police Department has been testing the merits of its force of 70 officers donning small cameras while on duty.
According to police chief Tony Farrar the results are “truly amazing.”
These officers are the first in the country to complete a detailed pilot program, and as of Sept. 1, all of the department’s uniformed officers will be wearing them.
Rialto has seen an 88 percent drop in complaints against officers and a 60 percent decrease in use of force. These amazing numbers speak for themselves.
At more than 5,400 officers, outfitting Houston’s police department would be no small feat. At around $900 each, these gadgets are no minor expense. Perhaps this is a small price to pay when compared to the ease with which disputes between officers and citizens could be resolved. In fact, one Rialto officer has already beaten a false charge of police brutality thanks to his device.
The other hurdle to overcome would be the potential officer resistance to being constantly monitored. The measure would no doubt create extra work for them. One Rialto officer had this to say about the mutual benefit that comes with the cameras: “When you put a camera on a police officer or anyone, the natural human reaction is that you behave a little more professional. You follow the rules a little more.”
“On the other side, if a citizen knows the officer has a camera, that person acts and behaves a little bit more professional, too.”
That is to say, the nerve-wracking aspect of being watched by one’s superiors, though daunting, includes the convenient trade-off of well-behaved suspects.
With camera phones in the hands of every man, woman and child, it’s unlikely police will be escaping scrutiny anytime soon, regardless. When Rialto officers balked at the new system, Farrar reminded them of this and asked, “so instead of relying on somebody else’s partial picture of what occurred, why not have your own?”
If an officer is doing their job correctly, there should be no need to fear this innovative safety measure. The cameras create an equal footing for officer and citizen. This technology has the ability to eradicate “he-said, she-said” situations where there is a 50 percent chance of the wrong party facing punishment.
This would be a worthwhile investment for any police department that deals frequently with combative citizens, and there is certainly no shortage of those in Houston.
Opinion columnist Katie Wian is an English junior and may be reached at [email protected]