The Ethics of Police-Body Worn Cameras

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Over the past decade, police departments in many countries have experimented with and increasingly adopted the use of police body‐worn cameras (PBWCs). Their use has been greeted with both enthusiasm and scepticism. This article aims to examine the moral issues raised by the use of PBWCs and provide an overall assessment of the conditions under which the use of PBWCs is morally permissible and desirable. It first reviews the current evidence for the effects of using PBWCs, and concludes that while there is reasonably good evidence that the use PBWCs creates benefits, these appear to be highly dependent on the policies that govern their use. On the basis of this review, the article sets out a teleological argument for the use of PBWCs, that is, the argument that police departments ought to use PBWCs because doing so brings about more good than bad. The final two sections of the article reviews two deontological objections to the use of PBWCs: the idea that use of PBWCs is based on or expresses disrespectful mistrust, and the idea that the use of PBWCs violates a right to privacy. It argues that neither of these objections is persuasive, and concludes that we should conditionally accept and support the use of PBWCs.
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Archival date: 2019-07-09
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