Immediately following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the death of Eric Garner at the hands of a New York Police Department officer, criminal justice advocates called for greater measures to hold police officers accountable for their actions. For many observers, the failure to secure criminal indictments against the officers involved in each of these deaths of unarmed citizens suggested various shortcomings in the criminal justice system.

One of the most hotly contested reform proposals involves requiring police officers to wear body cameras. The NAACP, the ACLU, and The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law have supported initiatives requiring police to wear body cameras. In addition, President Obama announced that $75 million of federal money would be made available for local law enforcement to purchase and train officers to use body cameras.

Body-mounted cameras are not a new technology, and the number of police departments using them is increasing. However, a 2013 study conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum found that less than 25 percent of the 254 departments surveyed were using the cameras. Even many of the agencies that are using the cameras are racing to develop sound policies for their use. Similarly, a number of state legislatures have introduced bills to regulate the use of police body cameras. This essay highlights some of the emerging issues and policy implications with respect to body cameras and raises questions for future study.

This abstract has been adapted from the author's introduction.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2015

Publication Information

58 Howard Law Journal 881-890 (2015)