By Thanh Truong | WWL | July 19, 2019
In New Orleans, we’ve heard quite a bit this week about the body-worn cameras police wear when they respond to calls.
When turned on, body-worn cameras can back up police accounts, as they did in a shoot-out between New Orleans Police and two suspects at CVS last month.
When turned off, as some of them were for a deadly police chase and crash at Broadmoor hair salon in March, the body cameras can be a basis for police discipline.
Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission says these cameras offer a glimpse into the police point of view.
“They’re making split-second decisions and overwhelmingly the body camera footage shows that police are making the right split-second decisions, but there are examples where they have not,” said Goyeneche.
The use of body cameras is spreading. In 2016, 47 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies were using body cameras. That number is projected to only get bigger, but there are hold-outs.
77 percent of the hold-outs said the cost associated with the cameras is too high, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
“We could ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ this to death but when you start talking about $4.8 million in a $100 million budget, it’s significantly impairs a lot things we would do,” said former Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand in 2016.
Normand laid out his reason why the largest parish in the area doesn’t use body cameras. His successor, Joe Lopinto, has echoed that.
Goyeneche, however, says the cost is not just about the technology. He says the true cost is in the manpower required to oversee it, especially when Jefferson Parish averages more than 400,000 calls for service each year.
“That is a lot of body cameras, a lot of moving parts, and if somebody makes a request for a particular call for service, then somebody has to go into that camera, get it and then edit it,” said Goyeneche.
So far, studies show body cameras have not dramatically changed police behavior, for better or worse. They do show, however, that both police and the public support their use. Goyeneche predicts that eventually, Jefferson Parish deputies will join those ranks.