Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Winter 2020-21 - 14

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The Eye Comes
Down from the Sky

Expanding usage of police body-worn
cameras will change criminal law,
bringing benefits and burdens
By Raymond Edward Baker, Esquire*

O

n May 25th in Minneapolis, George Floyd died under
the knee of Officer Derrick Chauvin of the Minneapolis
Police Department.i The 8 minute and 46 second ordeal
of Mr. Floyd's expiration was caught on video camera, his cries
heard on every corner of the little blue marble we call home.ii The
Black Lives Matter Movement, a proverbial fire burning since the
controversial shooting death of Michael Brown by police officers
in Ferguson, Missouri, was doused with a metric ton of gasoline,
as protests of unprecedented size erupted across the world from
Washington, to Londoniii, to right here in Readingiv. In addition
to taking to the streets, activists have demanded law enforcement
and government leaders who fund police departments answer for
what some call institutional rot.v While most in and around law
enforcement are reluctant to support calls to defundvi, let alone
disband, police departments, most have embraced the idea that
changes are needed.
One such suggested change is requiring all patrol officers to
wear video cameras. Having officers strap on so-called " bodyworn " cameras eliminates the reliance upon Good Samaritan
recordings of police incidents, which rarely capture the full
extent of interactions with police. Instead, implementing policies
to require body-worn cameras would allow the patrol officers
to record their interactions with individuals.vii But how will
relocating the " Eye in the Sky, that never lies " to the chests
or shoulders of patrolmen on our streets improve interaction
between police and members of the community they serve and
protect? What will be the benefits to the judicial systems in
14 | Berks Barrister

Pennsylvania and Berks County? Finally, how will such actions
burden an already stretched criminal justice system?

Body-worn cameras were first implemented in the
English speaking, Common Law system of England in 2007,
in the regions of Devon and Cornwall.viii Its popularity in
implementation was mixed, with many worried about privacy
concerns. However, with the full backing of New Scotland Yard
and The House of Commons, the body-worn camera policy went
forward.ix Here in the United States, the first real implementation
came on the heels of the The Law Enforcement Officer-Worn
Body Camera Act of 2015, which intended to equip the men
and women of the Chicago Police Department with body-worn
cameras soon thereafter.x In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
where local government has always held a special place, no
statewide program has existed.xi In the County of Berks, an
expansion of body-worn cameras is underway, with a few local
departments currently operating a form of body-worn camerasxii.
The City of Reading Police Department, Berks County's largest
police force, recently deployed body-worn cameras among
its officers.xiii With the growth in patrol officers recording
interactions, many local defense attorneys and prosecutors will see
dividends from understanding what exactly happened when police
responded to an incident or conducted an investigation.
	 As every criminal law attorney can attest, a large part of
the profession is painting for a judge or a jury a picture of what
actually occurred in an incident, either a criminal caught or a


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Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Winter 2020-21

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Winter 2020-21

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Berks County Bar Association The Berks Barrister Winter 2020-21 - 32
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarrister_Fall2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarrister_Summer2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarrister_Spring2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarrister_Winter2020-21
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarrister_Fall2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarrister_Summerr2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarrister_Fall2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/Berksbarrister_Spring2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/Berksbarrister_Winter2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarristerFall2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarrister-Summer2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/BerksCountyBar/BerksBarristerSpring2017
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