Cops Leaving Body Cameras Behind While Moonlighting

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When police officers in America’s cities put on their uniforms and grab their weapons before moonlighting in security jobs at nightclubs, hospitals, and ballparks, there’s one piece of equipment they often leave behind — their body camera.

That’s because most police agencies that make the cameras mandatory for patrol shifts don’t require or won’t allow body cameras for off-duty officers even if they’re working in uniform, leaving a hole in policies designed to increase oversight and restore confidence in law enforcement.

Police departments contend that they have only a limited number of body cameras or that there are too many logistical hurdles and costs involved. But that argument doesn’t sit well with those who say it shouldn’t matter whether an officer is on patrol or moonlighting at a shopping mall.

“As long as they have real bullets, they need to have the body cameras,” said John Barnett, a civil rights leader in Charlotte, North Carolina, where shootings involving police have put use of the cameras under scrutiny.
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An Associated Press survey of the 20 biggest U.S. cities found that nearly all have officers wearing or testing body cameras, but that only five — Houston; San Antonio; San Francisco; Fort Worth, Texas; and San Jose, California — have rules requiring them for uniformed officers working outside their regular hours.

The departments that have body cameras or are testing them, but do not require moonlighting officers to wear them, are New York City; Los Angeles, Chicago; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Diego; Dallas; Columbus, Ohio; and Charlotte. Denver also has them and is planning to add cameras for off-duty work.

“There shouldn’t be a distinction,” said Lt. Elle Washburn, who oversees San Jose’s body camera program. “You’re still in uniform, still have powers of arrest.”

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 3206 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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