Bodycams have become a common tool used to provide transparency regarding the actions of law enforcement officers around the country. The Department of Public Safety plans to equip over 400 Alaska employees with body-worn cameras by the summer of 2023.
Employees slated to receive the cameras include Alaska State Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers.
Body camera rollout
The department will begin equipping employees in rural communities in January. Before employees can begin using the cameras, the department must finalize policies that govern their use. Advocates say the cameras will create accountability for law enforcement officers. However, their use may be challenging in some rural areas due to internet connectivity issues that make it difficult to back up footage.
Uses for body camera footage
Audio and video recordings from body cameras are sometimes used as evidence in trials involving police misconduct. However, the footage is more commonly used as evidence against private citizens.
While the footage can shed some light on what happened during an interaction with law enforcement, the footage only presents a partial picture because the jury can only see what is directly in front of the camera and may not be aware of the context that occurs out of frame. Additionally, there are privacy concerns, particularly when police capture footage of the inside of private citizens’ homes.
Body camera footage may provide some protection for citizens who interact with police. However, the prosecution can also use evidence captured by the cameras against citizens, making it important to be careful what you say and do when law enforcement officers and other government officials are present.