Why there might be a need for police body cameras in Nigeria.

Why there might be a need for police body cameras in Nigeria.

Author: Modangajia, Muhammed kewulabi
The fluid society has always thrown the door open for fresh administrative circumstances to crop up now and then, the usual corollary of which have been a reformative response, technological reincorporation, and the re-tailoring of the legal system to see to these exigencies. This is most often felt in the criminal legal systems of various jurisdictions.
The Nigerian Police Force which is the principal Law enforcement body of the Government that is more in direct contact with the naked public in the detection and prosecution of crimes has, this way, always contended with different specters of the sophistication and complexities of crime situations. The Force has also been accused of and imputed with endless criminal partnership and abetting.
Addressing this issue, different means, instruments, and tools for dredging up scenes and extracting facts have continuously been adopted and evolved to check the Force and, in the bargain, aid it in its enforcement, investigation, and prosecution activities.
The Police Body Camera— a usually chest-worn audio, video, and photographic camera is an intelligent instrument that has so far proven efficiently reliable and adequate in policing, facilitating accountability and transparency in the activities of the Force as well as hindsight coverage of evidentiary data.
The Police Body Camera custom was first evolved in the criminal administration system of the United Kingdom in 2005; now adopted in numerous countries.
The Lagos State government has blazed the trail in introducing the use of Body Cameras for its law enforcement bodies as this will enhance the complicated criminal atmosphere of the state.
The present article seeks to explore in criticality the need for body cameras by the Police in the administration of the criminal justice system in Nigeria.
In a country like Nigeria, the need for Police Body Camera is a fascinating and mesmerizing issue that requires urgent attention with unwavering vigor. The inordinate urge to give the issue urgent attention is premised on the need to explore in criticality the necessity of the usage of body cameras by the Nigerian Police force as an instrument for the restructuring of the administration of the criminal justice system in Nigeria.
No doubt, Nigeria is on a recurrent basis stepping into the thresholds of modernity and always rife with novel and scheme-demanding social realities. It is no exaggeration that Nigeria just, of course, like many other countries has always been a cesspool of crimes with different specters of the sophistication and complexities of the modern world. This then beggars a reformative system to contend with and reduce to the barest minimum, the latitude and evasiveness of the crime commission and also the actual and potential improprieties and impunity in the law enforcement bodies of the country. Thus, the necessity of body cameras by the police force in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized.
Premised on this, there is a need to bring to attention the truth embedded in this topic despite being one that has been prone to skeptical reactions, criticisms, and even notional controversy since its inception. This, of course, puts one in a concerned state of being compelled to x-ray and surgically analyze from a dispassionate point of view, the needfulness and importance of adopting and implementing this particular intelligent instrument (body camera) by the Nigerian government and by making it a must-use for the Nigerian Police force as it serves as an easiest technological means of ensuring adequate policing, accountability and transparency in the activities of the force and a route for maintaining purity in the administration of criminal justice system in Nigeria.
Being a Police officer is a risky venture. In addition to responding to calls, dealing with criminal suspects, and even intervening in ongoing crimes, officers also conduct arrests. Things that seem innocent at first risk, like stopping a car or strolling around a corner on the street can quickly become dangerous or even fatal. Also, the use of force by police to make arrests has received more media attention in recent years; in several cases, this force has proven fatal.
To capture the events of incidents on camera, numerous police agencies in some countries of the world have begun to guard their personnel with body cameras. These are commonly worn on the chests, shoulders, or visors. The media has frequently obtained footage of those incidents shot by bystanders.
In several instances, officers with body cameras have recorded footage of these incidents on the scene even though, the cases of officers using body cameras have never been seen in Nigeria but are evident in some of the countries which have adopted the technological instrument such as the United Kingdom.
If other countries could embrace this intelligent instrument, I believe Nigeria is not different considering the standard of and position of Nigeria as a country in the world and perhaps by being the Giant of Africa.
The proponents of the need for equipment of police officers with body cameras likewise the present writer have contended that footage minimizes a great deal of doubt about what transpired such as in the very notorious case of Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, which was not captured on camera.
It has most pronouncedly been demonstrated that videos, pictures, or audio captured and recorded by the body camera can be used as proof in court when the testimony of witness(es) frequently varies. Of course, many subtleties can flourish and wane to the oblivion of the prosecuting officers and even the public. Police body cameras have progressively proven able to garner hindsight and other unintended incidences. Moreso, these have also been utilized to discipline personnel who tend to fracture the department’s policy and to train new hires.
Additionally, by documenting the challenging choices officers must make throughout the day, body camera footage helps to dispel unfounded claims of police misbehavior and foster community trust. However, body cameras critics respond that the officer controls all aspects of the device, including when to turn it on and off. Others expressed worries about privacy, including the recording of a child’s words, a witness who worries about gang reprisal, or a victim of rape. Many contend that the public release of body camera footage showing individuals experiencing grief or anguish in private at a crime scene could potentially damage public trust. Critics claim that body cameras only capture a limited portion of the action and do not fully capture what the officer is doing.
With 7,000 police officers, Los Angeles became the largest American city to equip all of them with body cameras in 2015. However, there is a rift over the guidelines regarding the use of body cameras.
The rule requiring police to watch the footage of their use-of-force situations before filing their reports was the most contentious one. According to police officials, watching the film first will ensure that police produce thorough and accurate reports while discouraging deceit. However, some who were against the rule contended that it grants officers an opportunity to manipulate their written reports to suit their needs, omitting crucial information from the film.
Current Research Findings.
The increased use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement agencies has significantly outpaced the body of research examining the relationship between technology and law enforcement outcomes. As detailed below, although early evaluations of this technology had limitations, some notable recent research has helped advance our knowledge of the impact of body-worn cameras.
In a 2014 study funded by the Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center, researcher Michael White noted that earlier evaluations of body-worn cameras found several beneficial outcomes for law enforcement agencies. The earliest studies conducted in the United Kingdom indicated that body-worn cameras resulted in positive interactions between officers and citizens and made people feel safer. Reductions in citizen complaints were noted, as were similar reductions in crimes. The studies found that the use of body-worn cameras led to increases in arrests, prosecutions, and guilty pleas. From an efficiency standpoint, the use of technology reportedly enabled officers to resolve criminal cases faster and spend less time preparing paperwork, and it resulted in fewer people choosing to go to trial.
In 2017, with NIJ support, researchers from CNA conducted a randomized controlled trial of 400 police officers in the Las Vegas metropolitan police Department. The research team found officers with body-worn cameras generated fewer use-of-force reports and complaints from citizens compared to officers without body-worn cameras. Additionally, officers with body-worn cameras issued a higher number of arrests and citations compared to officers without body-worn cameras.
From the foregoing, it is shown to us that despite fierce opposition and antagonism against the use of body-worn cameras, research has made us realize that it has done more good than harm in countries that have adopted it. In this connection, if the Nigerian government should implement and adopt the instrument (body cameras) for the Nigerian Police force, I firmly believe that it will serve as a potential benefit to our administration of the criminal justice system in many ways such as corroborating evidence, quicker resolution, increased civility, etc.
Interestingly, research has long established that eyewitness identification and personal accounts, including those of police officers, are often unreliable and biased (Brucato, 2015). Memory can be altered, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and proven insufficient (Dawes, Heegard, Brave, Paetow, Weston, & Ho, 2015). A potential solution to eyewitness accounts is the implementation of mechanical objectivity, information that can be obtained using video and audio recording cameras (Brucato, 2015). While cameras have been present in police cruisers for decades, there is an increasing call for officers to wear them on their persons (Jenning et al, 2014). According to Brucato (2015), as personal cameras become omnipresent and are being used to document personal interactions including those with law enforcement personnel, recording devices aid in nullifying third-party documentation in their own favor, and provide for visibility of action.
In 2019, Dr. Cynthia Lum and her colleagues reviewed the results of 70 studies in the U. S and around the world resulting in the article; Research on Body-worn Cameras: What we Know, What we need to Know published in Criminology and Public Policy. Dr. Lum asks two questions: 1) Do body-worn cameras deliver the outcomes we seek?; and 2) What are the unintended consequences or broader effects of Body-worn cameras on agencies and their communities? More than 50% of the papers reviewed examined the effect of Body-worn cameras on officer behaviors. Other areas of research included officer attitudes, community behavior, community attitude, impact on investigations, and organizational impacts.
It is hard to think of a police technology that has s been adopted so quickly in the last decade as body-worn cameras. Body cameras have deservedly attained wide adoption for a plethora of reasons which include increased internal accountability, reliable transparency, improved citizen complaint handling, and their use for officer safety education. In light of the foregoing, it is suggested that in Nigeria, body cameras should be on the way to becoming the new normal for every Police department in the country. Another pre-eminent reason for this is that body cameras are thought to have a strong “civilizing effect” on people who know they are being recorded, even though there are many other benefits to using a body-worn camera.
It is however true that body cameras, of course, do have their downsides but what is important to be considered by the Nigerian government is its future benefits and how it will shape the administration of the criminal justice system of their dear country if it is being adopted. On a cautionary note, body cameras should not be a replacement for good first-line supervision that occurs in person in real time.