Eyeing a clearer plan

What if wearing a body camera went beyond law enforcement? What if everyone were required to strap those cameras on during the work day? Would our behavior change? Would we be open to the possibility that everyone could see what just transpired. Should everyone or just a select few be able to watch what is recorded?

A local police officer posed those questions to me. Specifically, he suggested: “What if politicians were required to wear body cams? It would be very interesting to see what is said and what isn’t.”

After all, our lawmakers, local, state and federal, will likely help to craft policies that will determine what you and I see when an officer’s body cam is on and fully functioning.

As a journalist, my instincts are clamoring to see everything, even though it may be disturbing to watch. I want full access and the officer’s perspective, as we know, is critical in supporting his/her account of what happened.

On the other hand, do any of us need to see video footage that isn’t relevant to an investigation or could be embarrassing for victims.

Where do we draw the line?

And what about costs? Taxpayers will have to foot the bill, so how much are we willing to pay for? The cameras, the maintenance and replacement equipment? For how long do we store video footage? How will the data be stored? How much are those costs? Who will have access down the road?

Technology is great, but it has created a whole host of issues that we now must address, because is inevitable that every police officer and sheriff’s deputy will be fitted with a body cam.

Whatever decisions are made, it’s clear we have to find a balance that allows for transparency and yet doesn’t exploit or victimize those caught in the eye on the camera – that includes suspects, victims and law enforcement. What are the privacy concerns that must be addressed?

The discussions, here locally, in Des Moines and across the country, will not be easy. But this is an issue that needs full community participation and engagement.

Because having multiple points of view will help law enforcement, lawmakers and the public form a plan to where we can speak to this issue much more clearly.

Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or jhutton@timesrepublican.