May 18, 2015

Police Officers Begin to Use Body Cameras in Schools

During this legislative session, the Connecticut General Assembly’s committees have considered several bills about police officers’ use of body cameras while on duty.  Worn on an officer’s chest, this tiny device can record interactions between an officer and citizens.  Education Week reports that body cameras are increasingly being worn by police officers assigned to public schools, who are also known as school resource officers (SROs).

Photo by West Midlands Police / CC-BY-SA 2.0
Police departments, school districts, and student privacy advocates are at odds over whether it is good policy for SROs to wear body cameras.  (The National Association of School Resource Officers has yet to take a position on the use of body cameras in schools.)  Many police departments favor the cameras, since they provide objective evidence for use in criminal proceedings (in this case, those involving students) and could help refute or prove SRO misconduct accusations.  Some police departments have a policy that officers will switch on the cameras only when they investigate complaints or interact with students. 

Conversely, civil rights groups have argued that SROs should not wear body cameras.  They feel that student privacy concerns outweigh any benefits the cameras might have, and they fear that footage of students misbehaving could become a permanent part of their “digital footprint.”

While there are no national statistics on how many school districts allow SROs to wear body cameras, the media has reported that Memphis, Tennessee; Topeka, Kansas; and Des Moines, Iowa have recently adopted them.

Click here to read the full Education Week article.