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Law enforcement (in America) should be required to use body cameras during civilian interaction

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/9/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 341 times Debate No: 87937
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (0)
Votes (0)




Round Structure:
First round - opening arguments
Second round - counter arguments
Third round - closing statements

This is a semi-formal debate. You will be expected to use evidence and logic to prove your position. Please use acceptable grammar, good structure, and easily identifiable sources (I personally prefer URLs). You will only have 24 hours to make each argument.

Clarification of terms:
American law enforcement - while it may be of benefit to other nations as well, this debate is only concerned with the current wide spread discussion of this new policy in the United States. A law enforcement officer (which is common abbreviated to LEO) is any public sector employee concerned with enforcing laws. This includes city police officers, county sheriff deputies, state/highway patrol officers, border patrol officers, federal marshals, etc.
Body camera - any sort of recording device carried by LEOs. While this specifically means a camera mounted on the officers body, it will also include head mounted cameras for the sake of this debate. We will not be concerned with vehicle cameras.
Civilian interaction - This includes traffic stops, initial investigation/questioning, crowd control, or any other instance where LEOs respond to a call or intervene in a situation. We will not be including interactions within police facilities, where it is expect that most areas are already under surveillance.

Today, there has been a resounding call to reform police practices. This is the result mostly of the various instances of alleged racially provoked shootings at the hands of police. Many cases result in disappointing verdicts, based on a lack of evidence. A prime example was the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted on the basis of a lack of evidence. Because there was no video evidence, it was difficult for the courts to paint a clear picture of what occurred that night. Even though the shooting was highly suspicious, it would have been near impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Wilson wasn't engaging in legitimate self defense. Due to the accessibility of recording equipment in this day and age (thanks to smart phones), some cases have experienced the opposite effect. When Walter Scott was shot in North Charleston, SC by officer Michael Slager, video evidence led to a swift indictment. The question remains why do we not utilize this new technology in full effect.

My contentions

Protection of the rights of civilians: Simply put, surveilling the actions officers take with civilians holds them to a high standard of professionalism. If an officer knows they are being recorded, they realize they will also be scrutinized for their actions. Many studies have noted the positive effect cameras have on use-of-force trends (I will list three separate studies). All three studies noted a drastic decrease in instances of use-of-force and complaints filed.

Protection of the rights of officers: Police officers are also concerned about faulty complaints and false assumptions about events. Anyone can file a police report, be it justified or not. Police body cameras would provide clarity to the circumstance surrounding the report.

Video evidence does not lie: More evidence is better evidence. One common court room dispute is whether or not a detainee was read their Miranda rights before being questioned. According to the supreme court, any evidence obtained through an interrogation of someone who has not been Mirandized is inadmissible in court. Whenever there is a dispute over whether or not the defendant was read the Miranda warning, it often comes do to the officer's word versus their's. With body cameras, it will be easy to show video evidence of an officer reciting the warning or not. This is just one example.



The resolution says police should us body cams in civilian interactions. The wording of which and the lack of mentioning any exceptions to the rule of requiring body cams in civilian interactions, implies that they should be used in all civilian interactions. This is how the resolution is written, and should be interpreted.

Privacy Concerns

There are some definite privacy concerns with body cams. Police don"t only deal with suspects of crimes, and traffic infractions on a daily basis. Officers also talk with witnesses and informants. They talk to rape victims. They also are sometimes the first to arrive at car crashes and interact with the victims of horrible tragedies.
The main concern is that all the footage would be public property and therefore public can get access to it through the freedom of information act, but even if laws were made to protect the privacy of people, leaks still happen and the civilians still know the film is being made which has an effect on their psychology. You can easily go to youtube and already view dash cam footage of a lot of people in the worst moments of their lives, we don"t need to make this problem worse.
Informants, many of which are in the criminal underworld will be less inclined to provide evidence needed to capture and prosecute dangerous criminals. Scared and shaken witnesses will also be more scared to and less inclined to give information. An officer talking to a 7 year old who just watched his mother raped and murdered, does not need to have a camera in his face bearing witness to and forever immortalizing the greatest tragedy he will ever face.
Even when filming the arrest of somebody perhaps a batterer, the officer is often going into a private residence and there is all kinds of private information lying around, and no way should a victim of domestic violence have her private life exposed to whatever prying eye makes a FOA request, or youtubes the video, because some cop thought the interaction was funny enough to upload on the internet.

Bureaucracy concerns

Just like any other occupation, and especially with government agencies there can be a lot of bureaucracy. There is a lot of concern that having police cams on too much can make the jobs of officers harder, it can also make it harder on good cops.
Right now an officer has a lot of discretion. If he sees an old lady in a dangerous neighborhood with an unregistered gun, he can turn a blind eye but with the cameras, he may be forced to prosecute every single tiny infraction. If you think broken windows policing is bad now, just wait until the police can no longer let little things go.
The cameras can be used for his bosses to nitpick about every tiny thing he does, from improper uniform, to some off the cuff remarks to fellow officers. Everybody needs to blow off steam on occasion, and especially so in a high stress jobs like policing.

I know everyone thinks these body cams will be used to keep an out of control government in check, but in reality, just like every other tool. It will be used against citizens. Anyone can watch Tru TV and see "Top 20 Drunks" shows, shaming people seen in dash cam videos or videos in a police room, we don"t need to embarrass random people by allowing these shows more material.
We don"t need to handcuff good cops, by forcing them to lose their discretionary privileges. If unjust laws are made, we"re somewhat protected by the fact that cops can use their discretion to stop enforcing stupid laws, with body cams you can forget that. Vote Wylted
Debate Round No. 1


My opponent brings up the very valid concern of privacy. However, the issue may not be a prevalent as it appears. Firstly, my opponent seems to b concerned with the general public gaining access to body camera footage. He specifically mentioned the Freedom of Information Act. The FIOA has many exceptions; the general public is not entitled to all government records:
"Exemption 7: Information compiled for law enforcement purposes that:

7(A). Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings
7(B). Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication
7(C). Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy
7(D). Could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source
7(E). Would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions
7(F). Could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual"
The government has already considered the privacy of the general public. Simply put, I can't file an FIOA request to receive footage of DUI arrests for an arbitrary reason. If, for instance, I was a lawyer taking a case against an alleged malpracticing police officer, I could easily receive footage.

In terms of informants and traumatized victims, they would not have to worry about this information becoming public for the reasons mentioned above. The police should be instructed to inform the public of the exemptions of the FOIA. In the example of the 7 y/o boy, special procedures are in place to protect and respect victims. In that situation, it seems highly unlikely that serious questioning would occur directly after the event. The first responders will not be trying to extract information.

At the end of the day, this is a problem not with body cameras but a with policy.

In regard to police officers and discretion; the hierarchy of law enforcement agencies understand the massive role that discretion plays. There is good discretion and bad discretion. The hierarchies need to evaluate LEOs on their use of discretion. Body cameras can be invaluable to preventing bad discretion. Your specific example displays a poor use of discretion. The old women has an illegal firearm, when she could have easily registered it. She could have an insidious motive for having motive for having an unregistered firearm. Should that weapon be used in a crime, it will be difficult if not impossible to trace. With the presence of a body camera, his supervisor could inform the officer of his mistake and make a positive change.


My opponent has listed 3 links that merely go to the front page of 3 news sites. These sources do not verify the existence of 3 different studies done on police body cams. He should be deducted source points for providing fake links, and punished accordingly. He should probably also be deducted conduct points, because I"m only aware of one major study done on police body cams. I assume he lied about the number of studies found.
Use of Force and Civilian Complaints
I"m going to go ahead and concede these points, because they don"t matter. They are also a waste of time, though I could easily shed serious doubt on them. The debate is not whether police body cams are useful, or should be required. The debate is whether police should wear them in every civilian interaction. You can support body cam usage and still be opposed to them recording every interaction.
Now I support officers turning them on during traffic stops, or during calls into tense situations, but when dealing with a rape victim or an Informant (for example), the officer should be allowed to turn them off. What reason is there to record an informant telling the officer about some drug dealers on the corner, openly selling? It has the down side of preventing informants from speaking, while carrying absolutely no upside.
"In the example of the 7 y/o boy, special procedures are in place to protect and respect victims. In that situation, it seems highly unlikely that serious questioning would occur directly after the event. The first responders will not be trying to extract information."
This is just stupid. This is not Law and Order SVU. Often times detectives don"t even talk to victims. I was personally in a situation, where I killed an escaping robber. His friends actually ran off and let him to die. I was never once talked to by a detective, and was later issued a subpoena for court, never talking to a detective at all. The only people I talked to were first responders. This is how the real world works. Most victims of crimes, only talk to first responders. The witness statement they write up should be enough. They shouldn"t have to have a camera in their face, during the worst time of their life. Beyond that, you have yet to state a reason why victims or informants should be forced to be recorded.
My opponent most likely attempted to link to 3 articles on the same Rialto California police body cam study. What my opponent doesn"t realize, is that even during these studies, the body cams weren"t rolling during every civilian encounter. There is no police department in the United States that requires that. According to Police One who reported on the study, and on whose article a link to the study can be found; "For 12 months, Rialto"s 54 frontline officers all were assigned randomly to wear or not wear TASER HD Axon Flex video/audio cameras attached to their clothing during each of their 12-hr. shifts. On shifts when they wore cameras, "the officers were instructed to have them on during every encounter with members of the public, with the exception of incidents involving sexual assaults of minors and dealing with police informants," the study team explains."
So even the studies my opponent are linking to, don"t show the results of every police interaction with civilians. No such study has been done, nor will it be done.

"In regard to police officers and discretion; the hierarchy of law enforcement agencies understand the massive role that discretion plays. There is good discretion and bad discretion. The hierarchies need to evaluate LEOs on their use of discretion. Body cameras can be invaluable to preventing bad discretion."
The whole point of personal discretion that nobody is in the officers shoes and can judge that better than him. If an officer has somebody sitting over his shoulder judging every discretion as either good or bad, and punishing or criticizing him for what is viewed as bad discretion, well that takes away the discretion altogether. Now there are certain laws that are known as "must arrest" laws, and officers are required to arrest for those laws or risk termination, but that is not what we are talking about. We"re talking about the discretion of whether or not a jay walker is ticketed, or whether a kid dropping his candy wrapper on the ground should be fined $1000 for littering. The officer needs the discretion of whether or not to lock up somebody for public intoxication or not. Without this discretion, this country will turn into one where anybody can be arrested or fined for just about anything. Most legal experts believe that the average citizen commits 3 felonies a day.
You certainly can"t tell an officer he can"t use his discretion to fine or arrest somebody who broke a law, so now with the second guessing for free passes, you incentivize officers never using their discretion to give somebody a free pass. With the fact that every single one of us breaks the law, every single day. This becomes a very dangerous thing to incentivize.
My opponent has not disputed my claim that leaks of footage can and do happen, embarrassing people unnecessarily. This is a point in my favor. He is acknowledging that people will be seen in their most private moments, when they should not have been.
My opponent brings up some good reasons to have body cams, and I agree with them. However he has failed to show why they should be used in every single civilian encounter. The Rialto study showed that using the cameras in most civilian interactions as opposed to all of them, got the desired results my opponent is asking for. If the Rialto study was so successful at getting the desired results without shoving a camera in a child victim"s face or without compromising confidential informants, why don"t we replicate that study in real life?
Debate Round No. 2


Wow... I'm incredibly sorry about my initial sources. I had the same debate with someone else, but he bailed. The old debate was automatically deleted, so I started a new one. I copy and pasted my previous opening statement from that page, and apparently the links didn't copy properly. Here are my actual sources: (this is the Rialto study my opponent mentioned)

Getting on with my closing statement...

Police body cameras are a step in the right direction for improving police practices. The evidence shows that police body cameras reduce the use of force and complaints levied against the police. Police body cameras would also be instrumental in protecting police officers against false allegations.

In response to the point about victims and informants, my opponent has resorted to insults and anecdotal evidence (which hardly even relates to the point of traumatized victims anyway, as he was not such). Further, he has not supported his contention that cameras will offend traumatized victims with any evidence, just conjecture. My opponent seems to have a gut feeling that it is the case. Honestly, I can't see why a victim would be willing to talk with an LEO but be absolutely opposed to being on a body camera. This is what my opponent failed to prove. The footage would also be helpful in determining what exactly the victims initial responses were. What if they changed their story later on to help their case?

My opponent is either failing to acknowledge or is downplaying the fact that discretion can be used poorly. LEOs have a lot of power. That power is meant to be held in check by their superiors. Just as you say discretion can be used to not enforce an unjust law, it can also be used in a corrupt or otherwise illegal manner. We should not give such massive amounts of power to LEOs and then refuse to supervise them and hold them accountable. Also, I will restate one of my previous points: the law enforcement hierarchy understands and respects the role of discretion. Your example of "a kid dropping his candy wrapper on the ground should be fined $1000 for littering" is, well, ridiculous. What police chief is going to look at that situation and demand swift justice? If he did, there would be riots.


So I guess there were two other studies. The policies of the other departments still don"t require body cams be turned on for every civilian interaction. For example in Orlando the policy is:

"Officers shall activate the (body-worn camera) whenever there is a potential for dealing with a suspect of a crime," states the policy. It adds that, "(the camera) may be activated whenever the officer feels its use would be beneficial to his/her police duties."

The San Diego guidelines advise police to not record victims of violent crime, or record peaceful protestors, when they perform their protection duties at those.

We can see that my opponent is advocating for a policy that has likely never been implemented before, and using data from studies that never required police to record all civilian interactions. If my opponent wants to replicate the results of those studies, he should follow the body worn camera guidelines they have. Not create his own unproven guidelines.
My opponent should lose because the use of bodycams can be implemented with the same results, and without requiring the use of bodycams in every single civilian interaction.

Impact analysis

I"ll keep this short. There isn"t much to say, because this is such a clear loss for my opponent. Even without me adding anything.

My opponent must show that bodycams should record every single civilian interaction. He has not done this. He has showed the usefulness of body cams for sure. Officers should use them for traffic stops, and when responding to service calls, but he has not given a single good reason (or any reason at all) to use them when talking to informants are victims of violent crimes. He needs to give some good reasons as to why bodycams should be used while talking to victims of violent crimes or why informants who may have to admit their own illegal activity to help a cop catch a bigger fish, should be recorded.

I haven"t won because I"ve presented some sort of compelling evidence that police shouldn"t be wearing body cams in every interaction with civilians (I have). I"ve won because my opponent has failed to give a single reason why informants and victims should be recorded.


"In response to the point about victims and informants, my opponent has resorted to insults and anecdotal evidence (which hardly even relates to the point of traumatized victims anyway, as he was not such)."

I have not insulted anybody, but this is an insult. How dare my opponent say an accident where I killed somebody and watched their mangled body squirming in odd and inhuman ways on the ground is not traumatic. How dare my opponent say I was not a victim who has had to live with the knowledge I have killed somebody, because of his own criminal behavior as well as the behavior of his buddies. My opponent should definitely lose some conduct points for this rude behavior. Between the conduct point, arguments and loss of the source point, my opponent cannot be allowed to win this debate.

"I can't see why a victim would be willing to talk with an LEO but be absolutely opposed to being on a body camera."

This is silly to even say. There is a huge difference between talking with a cop who is acting like a trusted confidant, and talking to somebody with a camera where the footage will be reviewed by whoever puts it in the database, the chief of police, the district attorney, 12 jurors, a judge whoever happens to be in the courtroom that day, and numerous media outlets displaying the footage to millions of people. Without the bodycam a victim is crying on the shoulder of a trusted confidant, with the body cam (AKA evidence for a court case, likely pulled up by the defense team to find tiny contradictions), the victim is talking to a large group of people. The situation with an informant is worse, especially if we are dealing with organized crime. Way to give somebody the death sentence who gave a police officer who used his information to bust a hitman pro.

"This is what my opponent failed to prove. The footage would also be helpful in determining what exactly the victims initial responses were. What if they changed their story later on to help their case?"

This is what a written witness statement is for. The victim can type down a statement about what happened, and still have a shoulder to cry on where she can say whatever she wants (Personal wise not evidence wise) in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event.

I won't even respond to the discretion point too much. My opponent has completely went off the rails with it. Just read my previous round to see how I"ve already addressed every single thing he says.

Look this is a clear win for me. Do the right thing. Thanks voters.
Debate Round No. 3
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