Ferguson Police Now Sporting Body Cameras

Devices meant to offer transparency; critics say they're an invasion of privacy

By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 1, 2014 7:03 AM CDT | Updated Sep 1, 2014 8:36 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Ferguson police got to test-drive a new device over the weekend: body cameras, which officials hope will show a clearer picture of what happens during police incidents like the ones that occurred during the Ferguson protests. About 50 cameras, which are positioned on officers' uniforms to enable up-close audio and video recording, were given to local law enforcement by two manufacturers and tried out on Saturday during the most recent Ferguson march, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "[Officers] are really enjoying them [and] trying to get used to using them," says Tom Jackson, Ferguson's chief of police.

The subject of body surveillance equipment for cops has become a hot topic since the shooting death of Michael Brown. Although some critics claim the cameras might be an invasion of privacy, law enforcement agencies and the ACLU are all for them, reports Reuters. Another St. Louis-area police department has already approved buying the devices for its force, notes the Post-Dispatch, and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a news conference last week that his department is "actively looking" to use the technology, reports PoliceOne. It looks like other departments may be following suit: Digital Ally, one of the companies that supplied the Ferguson police with its cameras, says it has witnessed a "fivefold" jump in camera inquiries since Brown's death, notes Reuters.

In this Jan. 15, 2014, file photo, a Los Angeles Police officer wears an on-body camera during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles.
In this Jan. 15, 2014, file photo, a Los Angeles Police officer wears an on-body camera during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
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