It's been almost two weeks since Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the incident raising many questions, among them would a body camera worn by the officer help clear up what transpired.
Local law enforcement agencies, such as Coeur d'Alene Police and the Airway Heights Police Department, have seen success with body cameras. The Spokane County Sheriff's Office has done a pilot program with 15 of its deputies, received positive feedback, and are awaiting a ruling from the Attorney General's office before implementing the program across the department.
Additionally, back in February, the Kootenai County prosecutor determined an officer involved shooting was justified in part because of what body cameras showed of the incident.
“Body cameras are one of those things that across the industry has been something that it improves citizen engagement with officers, and it helps to take the element of 'he said, she said' out of the equation because we do have documented record of an interaction,” Bill Hyslop with the Use of Force Commission said.
Experts however say there is no telling if the cameras will provide help in every situation.
The Spokane Police Department is rolling out body cameras with its officers in the coming weeks, to be used as another tool in investigations like they're being used in other local departments. However, their utility in aiding an investigation will have some limitations.
“The body camera can only see a certain scope of information and if there is other things in the surrounding area, the body camera doesn't necessarily document all that,” Hyslop said.
“So for example if an officer sees something out the corner of his eye and turns his head, that might not be captured on a body camera,” Spokane Police spokesperson Monique Cotton said.
During the first week in September, approximately 15 to 20 Spokane officers will be equipped with body cameras in a pilot program. During the pilot program the department's goal is to take everyone's perspective into account, to look at the results of the program and figure out the best way the department can implement body cameras across the force.