Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture (PDT&C)

Editor-in-Chief: Gibbons, Leisa / Gracy, Karen F.

CiteScore 2017: 0.02

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.106
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.015

See all formats and pricing
More options …

Police Body Cameras and Professional Responsibility: Public Records and Private Evidence

Stacy E. Wood
Published Online: 2017-04-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pdtc-2016-0030


Extensive media coverage has focused attention on the disproportionate frequency and severity of police use of force against black communities in the United States. Video documentation captured by public officials and private citizens aided by the ubiquity of cell phones has made this violence inescapable, enabling conversations of system-wide problems within a mainstream context. Video documentation has been posed as a means of increasing transparency on the part of police and the district attorneys tasked with the decision of whether or not a police shooting requires the indictment of an officer. This documentation is also simultaneously posed as a check against the unmitigated authority of officer testimony, as a financial windfall for companies selling the technology, and as the ultimate exoneration for police officers attempting to justify their decisions in the field. These concurrent rhetorical registers operate in different domains and rarely overlap. The enormous amount of attention that has been focused on body-camera programs belies a techno-utopian impulse, an investment in a technological fix to complex and interlocking historical and socio-political realities. With this attention, funding has followed, pre-existing body-camera programs have been extended, and pilot programs have launched, presenting new challenges for police departments whose resources cannot meet the fiscal demands of a dramatic technological shift in a short period of time. Similarly, policies and laws regarding these devices themselves as well as the footage they capture have been sluggish to coalesce around coherent principles. This paper examines the emergent markets, policies, and laws governing the footage captured by police-worn body cameras in the United States and employs this footage as a way to reckon with complex ethical issues for information professionals.

Keywords: Information Policy; Archives; Records Management; Police Body Cameras Manuscript


  • Akrich, Madeline. “The Description of Technological Objects.” In Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change. Ed. Wiebe E. Bijker, and John Law. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1992, pp. 205–24.Google Scholar

  • Alexander, Keith. “Lawyers See New Benefit to D. C. Police Body Cameras–As Evidence for Trials.” Washington Post, January 25, 2015.Google Scholar

  • Authenticity Task Force Report. The Long-term Preservation of Authentic Electronic Records: Findings of the InterPARES Project. http://www.interpares.org/book/interpares_book_d_part1.pdf; accessed June 6, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Bayatpour, A. J. “AG Schimel Not Releasing Body Camera Video in Sylville Smith Case at This Time.” FOX6 News, August 22, 2016. http://fox6now.com/2016/08/22/attorney-general-schimel-not-releasing-body-cam-video-in-sylville-smith-case-at-this-time/; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Bearman, David, and Jennifer Trant. “Authenticity of Digital Resources: Towards a Statement of Requirements in the Research Process.” D-Lib Magazine (1998). http://www.dlib.org/dlib/june98/06bearman.html; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Bowker, Geoffrey, and Susan Leigh Star. Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.Google Scholar

  • Briscoe, Tony. “Bill Would Improve Access to Videos of Police-Involved Shootings.” Chicago Tribune. December 6, 2015. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-police-video-house-bill-met-20151206-story.html; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Callahan, Rick. “Some Police Departments Shelve Body Cameras, Cite Data Costs.” Associated Press. September 10, 2016. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/f19d7270535f4202b92de1872278330f/some-police-suspend-body-cameras-or-hold-citing-costs; accessed March 15, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Dillon, Tharam, Chen Wu, and Elizabeth Chang. “Cloud Computing: Issues and Challenges.” In 2010 24th IEEE International Conference on Advanced Information Networking and Applications. IEEE, 2010, pp. 27–33. http://sistemas-humano-computacionais.wdfiles.com/local--files/capitulo%3Asistemas-de-servico/Dillon2010.pdf; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Dropbox Terms of Services, https://dropbox.com/terms; accessed June 12, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Duff, Wendy. “Ensuring the Preservation of Reliable Evidence: A Research Project Funded by the NHPRC.” Archivaria 42 (Fall 1996): 28–45. file:///C:/Users/bergers2/Downloads/12152–13861–1-PB.pdf; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Luciana Duranti, and Heather MacNeil. “The Protection of the Integrity of Electronic Records: An Overview of the UBC-MAS Research Project.” Archivaria 42 (Fall 1996): 46–67. http://www.archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/viewFile/12153/13158; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Duranti, Luciana, and Terry Eastwood. “Protecting Electronic Evidence: A Progress Report on a Research Study and Its Methodology.” Archivi & Computer 3 (1995): 213.Google Scholar

  • Edwards, Julia, Anjali Athavaley. “High Costs Hinder Outfitting of U. S. Cops with Body Cameras.” Reuters. April 23, 2015. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-police-cameras-idUSKBN0NE14P20150423; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Fan, Mary D. “Privacy, Public Disclosure, Police Body Cameras: Policy Splits.” Alabama Law Review 68.2 (2016): 395–444. http://www.law.ua.edu/lawreview/files/2011/07/Privacy-Public-Discourse-Police-Body-Cameras.pdf; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Frumin, Aliyah. “After Baton Rouge Shooting, Questions Swirl Around Body Cam Failures.” NBC News. July 7, 2016. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/after-baton-rouge-shooting-questions-swirl-around-body-cam-failures-n605386; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Garvie, Clare, Alvaro Bedoya, and Jonathan Frankle. “The Perpetual Line-Up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America.” Report for the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law. October 18, 2016. https://www.perpetuallineup.org/; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • General Assembly of North Carolina. Session Law 2016–88, House Bill 972. http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2015/Bills/House/HTML/H972v8.html; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Gilliland, Anne J. “Contemplating Co-creator Rights in Archival Description.” Knowledge Organization 39.5 (2012): 340–46. http://sois.uwm.edu/ioethics/contemplating-co-creator-rights-archival-description; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Grinberg, Emanuella. “North Carolina Law Blocks Release of Police Recordings.” CNN. July 13, 2016. http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/12/politics/north-carolina-police-recording-law/; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Hu, Wenjin, Tao Yang, and Jeanna N. Matthews. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Consumer Cloud Storage.” ACM SIGOPS Operating Systems Review 44.3 (July 2010): 110–15.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Iacovino, Livia. “Rethinking Archival, Ethical and Legal Frameworks for Records of Indigenous Australian Communities: A Participant Relationship Model of Rights and Responsibilities.” Archival Science 10.4 (2010): 353–72. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10502–010–9120–3; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • International Association of Chiefs of Police. “Guiding Principles on Cloud Computing in Law Enforcement.” 2013; updated 2015. https://www.theiacp.org/portals/0/documents/pdfs/cloudcomputingprinciples.pdf; accessed December 15, 2016.Google Scholar

  • The Leadership Conference and Upturn. “Police Body Worn Cameras: A Policy Scorecard.” Updated August 2016; https://www.bwcscorecard.org; accessed December 15, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Jadeja, Yashpalsinh, and Kirit Modi. “Cloud-Computing–Concepts, Architecture and Challenges.” International Conference on Computing, Electronics and Electrical Technologies (ICCEET). (2012) pp. 877–80.Google Scholar

  • Jansen, Wayne, and Timothy Grance. “Guidelines on Security and Privacy in Public Cloud Computing.” http://nist.gov; accessed December 12, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Jones, Kevin L. “TASER Unveils Ambitious Digital Video Evidence Management System.” PoliceOne (March 10, 2009). https://www.policeone.com/police-products/less-lethal/TASER/articles/1795111-TASER-unveils-ambitious-digital-video-evidence-management-system/; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Ketelaar, Eric. “Archives as Spaces of Memory 1.” Journal of the Society of Archivists 29.1 (2008): 9–27. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00379810802499678?scroll=top&needAccess=true; accessed March 15, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Laperruque, Jake. “Should Police Bodycams Come with Facial Recognition Software? A Technology Embraced to Protect Citizens Could Have Major Civil Liberties Implications.” Future Tense, November 22, 2016. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2016/11/should_police_bodycams_come_with_facial_recognition_software.html; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Lartey, Jamiles. “LaQuan McDonald Shooting: Officer’s Dashcam Mic ‘Intentionally Destroyed.’” The Guardian, January 28, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/28/ laquan-mcdonald-shooting-jason-van-dyke-dashcam-mic-destroyed-chicago-police; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Latz, Ron. S.F. No. 498–Police Body Cameras. (Minnesota Laws 2016, Chapter 171.) https://www.senate.mn/departments/scr/billsumm/summary_display_from_db.php?ls=89&id=4693; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • MacNeil, Heather, and Anne Gilliland-Swetland. “Authenticity Task Force Report.” In Luciana Duranti, ed. The Long-Term Preservation of Authentic Electronic Records: Findings of the InterPARES Project. San Miniato, Italy: Archilab, 2005.Google Scholar

  • Markowitz, Eric. “The LAPD Plans to Buy 7,000 Police Body Cameras, But Administrators Balk Over Price and Critics Cry Foul.” The International Business Times, January 15, 2016 http://www.ibtimes.com/lapd-plans-buy-7000-police-body-cameras-administrators-balk-over-price-critics-cry-2265613; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Mather, Kate. “Councilman Seeks Review of LAPD Body Camera Plan, but Prolonged Delay Is Averted.” The Los Angeles Times. April 20, 2016. http://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-lapd-body-cam-20160421-story.html; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Mather, Kate, and David Zahniser. “L. A.’s Effort to Equip Officers with Body Cameras Stalls.” The Los Angeles Times, April 16, 2016. http://www.latimes.com/local/crime/la-me-lapd-body-cameras-20160417-story.html; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Mather, Kate, and David Zahniser. “Deal to Spend $57.6 Million on LAPD Body Camera Clears Hurdle.” The Los Angeles Times. June 21, 2016. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lapd-body-cameras-20160621-snap-story.html; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Mattson, Rachel. “Police-Worn Body Camera Footage: A Public Record?” Part 2. Society of American Archivists, Issues & Advocacy Blog. October 14, 2016. https://issuesandadvocacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/police-worn-body-camera-footage-a-public-record-part-2/; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • McGovern, Timothy J., and Helen W. Samuels. “Our Institutional Memory at Risk: Collaborators to the Rescue.” Cause/Effect 20.3 (Fall 1997), pp. 19–21, 49–50. https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/html/cem/cem97/cem9735.html; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Miller, Lindsay, Jessica Toliver, and Police Executive Research Forum. Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned. Washington, DC Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, 2014. https://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/472014912134715246869.pdf; accessed December 17, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Mnookin, Jennifer. “The Image of Truth: Photographic Evidence and the Power of Analogy.” Yale Journal of Law & Humanities 10.1 (1998): 1–74. http://www.smnesbitt.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/The-Image-of-Truth.pdf; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Monahan, Torin. “Editorial: Surveillance and Inequality.” Surveillance & Society 5.3 (2008): 217--226.Google Scholar

  • Murphy, Sandra. “Battered Women’s Justice Project, Police Body Cameras in Domestic and Sexual Assault Investigations: Considerations and Unanswered Questions (2015), p. 3–7. http://www.bwjp.org/assets/documents/pdfs/police-body-camsin-domestic-and-sexual-assault-inve.pdf; accessed September 15, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Park, Eun G. “Understanding ‘Authenticity’ in Records and Information Management: Analyzing Practitioner Constructs. American Archivist 64.2 (Fall/Winter 2001): 270–91. http://americanarchivist.org/doi/pdf/10.17723/aarc.64.2.yrw0584547775404?code=same-site; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Pearson, Siani, and Azzedine Benameur. “Privacy, Security and Trust Issues Arising from Cloud Computing.” 2nd IEEE International Conference on Cloud Computing Technology and Science. IEEE Computer Society, 2010, pp. 693–701. http://barbie.uta.edu/˜hdfeng/CloudComputing/cc/cc05.pdf; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Roth, Lorna. “Looking at Shirley, the Ultimate Norm: Colour Balance, Image Technologies, and Cognitive Equity.” Canadian Journal of Communication 34.1 (2009): 111–36.Google Scholar

  • Roundtree, Richard. General Order 15–004. Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. July 17, 2015. http://chronicle.augusta.com/sites/default/files/BodyCam.pdf; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Ryan/Ryansoc, Andy Pasic, Kim Whitlatch, Tyson Nevil, Cynthia Nottingham, John Harvey, and Sunny Deng. “Welcome to Azure Government.” November 15, 2016. (The link to this site is gone, but see the November 14, 2016, link at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-government/documentation-government-welcome; accessed March 20, 2017.)Google Scholar

  • Stroud, Matt. “Taser Is Charging Stunning Fees to Handle Police Video.” Bloomberg Technology. June 16, 2015. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015–06–16/taser-is-charging-stunning-fees-to-handle-police-video; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Standard-Examiner Editorial Board. “Police Body Cam Footage Is a Vital Public Record; Don’t Restrict It.” Standard Examiner. February 12, 2016. http://www.standard.net/Our-View/2016/02/12/Police-bodycamera-footage-publicrecord-Utah-ACLU-editorial; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Townes, Carimah. “Why Activists Aren’t Happy About Officer Body Cams Coming to Heavily Policed City.” ThinkProgress, April 3, 2015. https://thinkprogress.org/why-activists-arent-happy-about-officer-body-cams-coming-to-heavily-policed-city-123c9852c5f7#.2eb52dc4a; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Weise, Karen. “Will a Camera on Every Cop Make Everyone Safer? Taser Thinks So: How the Stun-Gun Maker Plans to Monopolize the Body Cam Market.” Bloomberg Businessweek, July 12, 2016. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016–07–12/will-a-camera-on-every-cop-make-everyone-safer-taser-thinks-so; access March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Wichita Police Department Policy Manual. “Policy 716–Body Worn Cameras.” October 7, 2015. http://www.kansas.com/news/local/crime/article39303525.ece/BINARY/WPD%20body%20camera%20policy%20(PDF); accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Winner, Langdon. “Do Artifacts Have Politics?” Daedalus 109.1 (Winter 1980): 121–36. https://innovate.ucsb.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/Winner-Do-Artifacts-Have-Politics-1980.pdf; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Wisconsin Department of Justice, Compliance Guides. https://www.doj.state.wi.us/office-open-government/office-open-government. See for instance the Compliance Guide for 2015, at https://www.doj.state.wi.us/sites/default/files/dls/2015-PRL-Guide.pdf; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Wood, Stacy. “Police Body Cameras: Emotional Mediation and the Economies of Visuality.” In Emotions, Technology, and Design. Ed. Sharon Y. Tettegah and Safiya U. Noble. UK: Academic Press / Elsevier Science Publishing, 2016: pp. 227–39. See partially shortened version at https://books.google.com/books?id=cVerCQAAQBAJ&pg=PA227&lpg=PA227&dq=Police+Body+Cameras:+Emotional+Mediation+and+the+Economies+of+Visuality&source=bl&ots=RyD2EvP0OA&sig=UEZImOMqHu5XtPnTEpUssrX7pXo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjh1cbmyeXSAhXIxFQKHfy8CTkQ6AEIGjAA#v=onepage&q=Police%20Body%20Cameras%3A%20Emotional%20Mediation%20and%20the%20Economies%20of%20Visuality&f=false; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

  • Wood, Stacy, Kathy Carbone, Marika Cifor, Anne Gilliland, and Ricardo Punzalan. “Mobilizing Records: Re-framing Archival Description to Support Human Rights.” Archival Science 14.3 (2014): 397–419. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10502–014–9233–1; accessed March 20, 2017.Google Scholar

About the article

Published Online: 2017-04-28

Citation Information: Preservation, Digital Technology & Culture, Volume 46, Issue 1, Pages 41–51, ISSN (Online) 2195-2965, ISSN (Print) 2195-2957, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/pdtc-2016-0030.

Export Citation

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Citing Articles

Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. If you would like to receive automatic email messages as soon as this article is cited in other publications, simply activate the “Citation Alert” on the top of this page.

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in