Law enforcement cameras good, but ...

Coweta County’s sheriff’s deputies are being outfitted with cameras they will wear on their ears or glasses, cameras that will record conversations, actions and sounds as they go about their daily policing.

The cameras are seen as a way to provide documentation for thorny cases – providing a record of what a defendant actually said, even his tone of voice and nervous mannerisms. The recordings will, no doubt, provide valuable evidence in many cases in the future.

As with most technological advances, there is a hidden dark side to the new camera program. Every day, each officer with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Department will be able to record eight hours of activity – people driving near them, people walking by them, people who just happen to be in proximity to where that deputy is.

That person’s images, actions and voice – important, insignificant, inane – will be recorded somewhere and often stored.

The cameras add to an increasing number of times Americans are on camera. A statistic, seemingly not backed by any particular study, states Americans are videotaped an average of 30 times a day. Obviously, there are many differences.

The person who is retired or works from home and rarely leaves the house is on camera much less than someone who delivers milk or bread and gets taped coming into and going out of every store. Experts suggest people in urban areas where there is public transit are on camera more than people in rural communities.

ATMs, shopping centers, restaurant drive-through lanes, convenience stores, banks – all of these places have legitimate reasons for cameras. For some people, there is a feeling, however, of intrusion. The ordinary, even banal, moments of life are recorded for posterity by someone somewhere.

Our sheriff’s department is buying 100 of the cameras. “I believe everybody is going to start using something like this,” Sheriff Mike Yeager says. “More than just law enforcement, you will see it in fire departments and with EMS.”

Yeager deems the use of the cameras “a safety factor for the public.” Their use certainly has the potential to increase safety and to make it easier to put criminals behind bars and make people who are up to no good think twice, since they might just be on camera.

We certainly wish the sheriff’s office well with the AXON Flex on-body cameras. We hope they are able to successfully prosecute more criminals and put – and keep – dangerous people behind bars.

We also hope, however, that someone is thinking about all those hundreds of hours of images each week and where, how and for how long they are kept.



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