Should cops be allowed to see bodycam footage before filing reports?


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Another advantage of not letting them see their own footage is that they will become aware of their own memory/perception biases. More importantly, the judges will become aware of the same.


I dunno. I see both sides on this. Seeing the video might make a more believable fabrication if that was their intention.

At the same time, people who intend to be 100% truthful often times remember things incorrectly or out of order. Especially in times of high stress. Look at eye witness reports of an event and you will see that if you have 10 people they will have 10 different versions of what happened. Some of the details will line up, and some of them won’t its the way our brains work.


I’m imagining a future in which cops all have to move in threes, all facing inwards to give maximum coverage. In the 1970’s film version of this scenario, there would be a controller monitoring the live feed and relaying framing instructions to the police.

“Bravo Three, I want a tight two shot on the perp and Bravo One… Bravo Three, check focus… Bravo Two, I need the reverse angle…”


It’s fairly obvious that if they wish to assess the effectiveness of this technology they should allow half of the cops a chance to see, and forbid the other half, in randomised selections where the receiver of the written report is blinded to which is which.


Yeah, we should also encourage them to discuss the incident with other officers who were there. Just so they can get their stories str … er … so they can make sure they don’t forget anything.

Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Seriously, though, in order to make the cameras anything other than a joke, they really need to file a report before reviewing the footage. Then allow them to watch the footage, and if there are any big discrepencies allow them to add to – not replace – the initial report.


Dang, this is a thorny question. I hesitate to voice any opinion at this point.

But it did make me wonder… do civilians start wearing body cams all the time, in order to ensure that our individual point of view is covered? What are the legalities? Would police start confiscating/destroying/erasing the cameras?

Imagine a court hearing where all parties have their own footage, and the judge views a synced multi-monitor, multi-perspective history of the event in question. Any gaps in coverage would tend to look very suspicious for the party(s) with the missing footage. This starts getting very interesting very quickly.


I think not but then that could also work to the cops advantage. Any slight inaccuracies could be put down to natural, demonstrably common issues with human memory and perception.

Cops are always given the benefit of the doubt in even the most extreme circumstances, I doubt the camera record would change that.

The large discrepancies, however, would be given all the more weight.

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By a few of their friends, perhaps (ie the legal system). By everybody else the rest of the time - I doubt it. It might not be prudent to assume that those cherry-picked examples are representative.

‘always’ is cherry-picked?

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I think if the cop wants to lie, they’re going to lie. I do agree that there is a perception of the thin blue line. The camera footage could go ‘missing’ or the camera could get ‘destroyed’ during the engagement. Perhaps we could find a middle ground.

Instead of the video footage, could they get just the audio track. It would still allow the officer to have some idea of what was being done, but not give away the whole picture. Perhaps before the officer themselves is allowed to view it, an officer from internal affairs reviews it first.

BTW, the saying ‘a few bad apples spoils the bunch’ always comes to mind during these shooting events. Why haven’t we heard from non-bad apples about these shootings? All I see on the news is the Captains and Chiefs saying how they will look into the shooting.

The problem is that if police need to be “allowed” to review the data, this means that it is locked away with special access. What we need is for the data to be available to everybody, anytime.

What I mean is that the only people who actually seem to assume that police are always credible are courts, judges, etc. Not everybody, or even most people.

There have been multiple court cases in multiple locations in the US that protect the right of citizens to record police actions in public. Although many cops remain oblivious about that (or pretend to be) and try to intimidate people into deleting any images. Usually, they threaten charges of “interfering with official business” or bullshit like that.

IIRC, NYC has had multiple cases like that, and the NYPD keeps officially reminding the officers that this is legal, but some of them evidently have really poor memories. Also IIRC, there was one court case in Boston, the word went out, and BPD officers remember, no problem. (But I may have missed more recent incidents,)

A body cam would be no different.

Apologies but I don’t understand the point to which you are getting.

The courts and judges are the people who will be reviewing this footage.
I suppose if it then goes to trial (in the case of ‘major discrepancies’) a jury would review the footage but I contend this would happen infrequently as they would be given the benefit of the doubt, even with inaccuracies present.

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I want to have sympathy for the police here. I really try. Its hard to be in a career where one percent of police officers ruin the reputations of the vast majority of other good cops who believe in the right things. And by ruin I mean make the citizenry outright hostile to the uniform, ignoring the person wearing it.

The cameras exist as an impartial third party to provide as best as possible record of something that occurred. Thats all they do. Letting the officers review this means that record of events can be distorted, manipulated around in reports, or even worse, if inflammatory, be lost or suffer “a hardware failure”, as we’ve seen happen with LAPD in the last year.

The problems cameras are trying to solve exist on a few levels:

  • Identify people who never should have been cops, tend to be abusive and/or lack judgment in using force.
  • Overcome an over aggressive system of unions that overprotect police and automatically push away any kind of investigation.
  • Shine the light on the institutional racism issues surrounding officers interacting with minority citizens. It exists and its going to take a hell of a lot of time and effort to fix.

Cameras provide an annoying (to all officers) means to observe them in action. Its been shown to work. It may take time, but its a good start. So yea, lets not let them review the footage.


All uniformed cops should be livestreamed on Twitch.

I’d let cops write reports before and after seeing the video and make both copies publically available.


There’s privacy issues with that, as the police often are involved in situations where other people who would be filmed aren’t involved in anything untoward. The ACLU had some ideas about how public access should work in their article about body-mounted cameras that would be a decent starting point.


Compromise. Let the accused see all the evidence before asking them any questions. That way, the accused can better recall the events and provide more accurate information.


It only needs to be locked away until the initial report is filed. (And possibly until a later point in any legal process. IANAL.) It would not need to be – and I think generally shouldn’t be – locked away permanently.

There might be allowable exceptions to general public release, but only on behalf of the citizens involved.