As states take steps to improve transparency in communities across the country, the adoption of body-worn cameras (BWCs) is becoming more common. For states moving toward implementing BWCs, the timeline and process are largely individualized and many states lack a standardized policy when it comes to the use of police BWCs. Though budget is a major consideration, states also weigh the need to improve community relations when making the decision to purchase and implement BWCs.
Implementation by City, Circumstances
This lack of statewide BWC policy uniformity can be seen in Mississippi. Though a statewide policy does not exist, Mississippi cities have begun implementing BWCs on an individual basis. In Jackson, the state’s largest city, every police officer was equipped with a BWC in 2019 following three officer-involved shooting deaths since 2018. The city purchased 271 body cameras, which was enough for every patrol officer in the department.
Most of the funding for the cameras for Jackson, Mississippi came from the city ($306,000) and the remaining $300,000 was paid by a Department of Justice grant. Neighboring Starkville, Mississippi purchased BWCs for $620,000 and deployed 60 cameras in May 2021.
Jackson and Starkville are relatively late to the BWC party, as police departments in other cities in Mississippi have had body cameras for several years. The Hinds County Sheriff’s Department and the Clinton and Byram police departments in Mississippi have been using body cameras since 2015. Gulfport and Hattiesburg have had BWCs since 2016, joining Biloxi who had rolled out body cameras prior to 2016.
Conflicting Accounts of BWC Success in Mississippi
Though body cameras continue to proliferate police departments across the country, there are conflicting accounts about the effectiveness of BWCs in communities. Body cameras are touted as tools to help improve accountability in the community, and in gathering evidence in investigations. So are body cameras making a difference in Mississippi? The short answer is maybe.
The Hattiesburg Police Department reported a decline in citizen complaints between 2016 (91 complaints) and 2018 (46 complaints). Though this is a small sample size, it does show some success in a Mississippi city.
Beyond Mississippi: A Comparison
Larger scale studies beyond Mississippi show differing, and sometimes conflicting, results. A study by the federal Office of Justice Programs reviewed the impact of BWCs on more than 400 police officers in the Las Vegas Police Department. The study found officers wearing body cameras generated significantly fewer complaints and use of force reports compared with those officers without cameras. Additionally, those officers equipped with BWCs made more arrests than their counterparts who were not wearing cameras.
On the other hand, a study done for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department found no statistically significant differences in police use of force, number of citizen complaints, or number of arrests for disorderly conduct for officers wearing body cameras compared with those not wearing BWCs.
Next Steps for Mississippi
Mississippi police agencies are not bound by a BWC mandate; however, many have taken steps to adopt cameras in hopes of improving transparency and accountability in their communities. As more law enforcement agencies in the Magnolia State move toward equipping officers with body cameras, care must be taken to implement standard policies and consistent best practices around using BWCs and processing video and audio footage requests.
For example, the purchase cost of cameras offset by the potential increase in public trust and reduction of complaints is one thing. But purchasing cameras is just one small piece of the analysis – other costs of BWC programs (such as data storage costs, viewing rooms, responsive video and audio record distribution materials like DVDs, and redaction costs) should be weighed.
Tools exist to contain, or limit these additional costs, such as:
- AI redaction software to drastically reduce video and audio redaction time and cost
- Software to securely, digitally, share responsive video, audio, and other types of records
- Software to capture records fulfillment costs, generate estimates, invoices, and collect payments.
- Software to upload files of any type and unlimited size
Processing video and audio record requests is an important but time-consuming undertaking. Implementing video and audio redaction solutions helps simplify the process and promote public trust. Adaptable, efficient public records solutions help streamline even the most time-intensive processes for state and local agencies. To learn more about GovQA’s secure, automated, and customized public records solutions, visit GovQA.com or contact us here.
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