IU committee exploring possibility of campus police wearing body cameras
Jan. 28, 2015
A committee made up of representatives of law enforcement, students, faculty members and privacy experts is exploring the possibility of IU police officers wearing body cameras. The goal is to determine whether policing and safety benefits outweigh the costs of any potential loss of privacy by both civilians and police.
Police at the IU campuses began using in-car cameras in the mid-1990s and had been informally exploring the use of body cams before the tool became part of the national discussion about race and use of force after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last fall. Shortly afterward, Mark Bruhn, associate vice president for public safety and institutional assurance, which includes police departments on all campuses, commissioned the committee to formally evaluate the use of body cams and to provide a recommendation this spring.
Jerry Minger, superintendent of public safety, and Sara Chambers, IU’s chief privacy officer, are leading the effort. The committee chairs are Patricia Nowak, police chief at IU Northwest, and Beth Cate, associate professor of law and public affairs at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
“Technology has assisted law enforcement by changing the way we do policing, whether it is using DNA in investigations or crime mapping in intelligent-led policing,” Nowak said. “I believe it is critical to examine new technology that can assist in officer safety and accountability; however, we must realize that body cameras are only one tool in this effort.”
In addition to researching the many issues involved in body cams, such as personal privacy, safety, data storage and management, and financial costs, the committee plans to conduct meetings to gain input from the campus communities about the use of the body cams. Dates for those meetings have not yet been set, but will be announced publicly. The committee’s charge involves documenting potential safety benefits and costs and identifying potential legal, cultural and operational issues.
“The committee is examining a wide range of questions related to body cameras and gathering data on others’ experiences with them,” Cate said. “We look forward to consulting broadly with stakeholders as part of this process.”
In fulfilling its charge, the committee is reviewing studies and reports generated by a number of organizations, including this report by the American Civil Liberties Union discussing privacy issues related to body cams.
IU has 135 full-time police officers, including administrative staff, and 84 part-time sworn officers. Police on some of the campuses partner with community police agencies that already use the cameras. The Bloomington Police Department, for example, began using the cameras last April. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department began testing the use of body cams last month.
Initial research is showing that police departments manage their body cam use in various ways. Some, for example, require patrols to keep the cameras running all the time, except for when in restrooms or locker rooms.
The committee welcomes input from the university community. Comments can be sent to IUPS@iu.edu.