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While it is clearly not necessary to record a police officer’s wife asking him to bring home a bottle of milk, there is otherwise no consensus as to when the camera should be switched on or off.
Sandra McFarland, New York-based senior vice president and public entity placement specialist for Marsh L.L.C., said: “There’s definitely a problem with the fact that there’s so many different protocols.”
Insurers are concerned about the issue, said Monte Giddings, Kansas City, Missouri-based senior vice president and public entity practice leader for CBIZ Insurance Services Inc.
“If you follow the news articles, there are so many times where, at a key moment, the body camera goes off. That would be a negative for insurance companies,” he said.
The officer “should be allowed to use his discretion, like he would in the use of a weapon or a tactic,” said David L. Salmon, senior law enforcement adviser and risk manager at Spring, Texas-based OSS Law Enforcement Advisors.
Meanwhile, more police departments are using more sophisticated cameras that turn on automatically at certain times — for instance, when a police officer’s gun is removed from its holster, said Brad Bohler, Chicago-based senior vice president of client risk management for Brit Global Specialty USA, a unit of Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd.
There is a “fine balance” needed in determining whether these automatic cameras are worth their additional cost, “but the subject matter experts say the costs are worth it,” he said.
Police departments’ increasing use of body cameras to document their encounters with the public will ultimately reduce public entities’ potential liability, experts maintain, although it is still too early to find hard evidence of this.