The impulse behind mandatory police body cameras – to hold law enforcement officers accountable for their actions, after several high-profile incidents of violence – is sound. The policy itself is not. And those calling for cameras should consider the drawbacks.

Video is far from an infallible evidentiary tool. The angle or lighting of a particular frame can improperly sway a juror’s perception of an incident on film.

Cameras could also have a detrimental effect on policing. Officers may be less inclined to engage communities or address quality-of-life issues – loitering, pot smoking, playing loud music – if they’re required to keep their cameras rolling at all times. And witnesses (as well as victims) aren’t likely to be forthcoming on camera in neighborhoods where they fear retribution.

One frequently cited study of police cameras – conducted in Rialto, California, in 2012 – found a decline in both use of force and complaints against the police when cameras were in use. But federal statistics show a significant increase in both violent crime and property crime in Rialto in 2012. Correlation isn’t causation, and other factors may be in play. All the more reason to study this issue further.

Who will have access to the videos – lawyers, the accused, any curious citizen? Will the films be subject to public-records laws? In short, has the public fully considered the consequences of empowering police departments to create a virtual space where everything is visible?

No – and it shouldn’t have to. Citizens are taking these matters into their own hands. Smartphone cameras have been ubiquitous during protests in Ferguson, New York and Baltimore, and the public is getting more creative when it comes to watching the watchers. Police now know they could be monitored by citizens at any moment, and not the other way around.

The result should be a more vigilant public, a more accountable police force and a balance of power that’s more in line with American values.

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