(June 16, 2021) Body-worn camera footage provides an independent record of police behavior that, when made public, can reveal abuses of power, challenge police narratives, and can contribute to accountability. And while there are numerous examples that are a testament to the power of bodycams, we have also seen numerous examples of why simply acquiring and deploying body-worn cameras doesn’t always achieve this. Why? Because the policy must demand it.
The rules around how officers use body-worn cameras, and what happens to the footage, are vital to delivering accountability and protecting privacy. Without these, cameras can create greater harm and even be used as a police propaganda and surveillance tool, instead.
The Anchorage Police Department must adopt a body-worn camera program that will deliver accountability and transparency. We believe that, as the APD collects input from community members and stakeholder groups, the end result of its process must be a policy that fulfills this central promise of body-worn cameras — that they can be tools for greater public oversight of law enforcement, especially when force is used, and engender greater trust between the police and the Anchorage community. We offer several important ways APD can create a policy to achieve these goals.