Body worn cameras (BWCs) have been shown to have multiple advantages for police officers. They’ve been proven to aid in de-escalating situations, as people change their behavior when they know they’re being filmed. BWCs have reduced frivolous and unsubstantiated complaints against officers who use them. They’ve also helped to improve relations between police and their communities, by adding a layer of transparency and accountability.
But of course, the main advantage of body cameras is in evidence collection. Having a camera operating at all times not only helps in picking up events that might otherwise have gone unnoticed, but also in creating a full, objective record of any incident the officer is present for. Here are three examples of times when BWC footage was a key element in upholding the law.
TULANE COP KILLER CAUGHT ON BODY CAM
On February 26th 2021, Tulane resident John Shallerhorn robbed someone in the parking lot of Carver High School and then shot Tulane policeman Martinus Mitchum in the chest, killing him. Eerily, two New Orleans Police Department officers had a strange conversation with the killer earlier the same day, and both incidents were captured on body cameras.
Shallerhorn flagged down two NOPD officers that day, asking the female officer to come to his car. “I have my buddy here in the back seat, and — um — we were talking about the spirit, and I wanted — uh — your opinion,” Shallerhorn told Officer Alyssa Van Lew, according to video captured by her body-worn camera. Officer Van Lew told him they were responding to a 911 call and didn’t have time.
Shallerhorn walked away, but would later shoot and kill officer Martinus Mitchum who was providing security at a high school basketball game. Officer Van Lew’s camera footage shows a bulging object in Shallerhorn’s waistband. The object was most likely a pistol, and suggests that Shallerhorn was planning at least a couple of times that same day to ambush police officers. Shallerhorn was booked with first-degree murder of a police officer and armed robbery.
POLICE FIND FAMILIAR SUSPECT QUICKLY
On October, 8, 2021, police in St. Thomas, Ontario were investigating a break and enter at a local residence. Fortunately, the property’s security cameras captured footage of the break-in. When the officers were shown the surveillance footage, they noticed that the person on the footage beared a striking resemblance to someone they had dealt with earlier that same day.
The officers went back over their BWC footage and found their encounter with the man. While speaking to him, the man had mentioned his name. With both a name and image, the officers were able to quickly identify and then track down the 31-year-old man. He was subsequently located and arrested on a series of outstanding warrants. The St. Thomas Police praised the BWC footage, saying that this was an example of body cameras directly helping in solving crimes.
LAWFUL ARREST AND STATEMENT
In 2016, police officers in Wisconsin arrested a woman on involuntary manslaughter and assault charges. The involuntary manslaughter was due to drunk driving, and the charges carried a possible sentence of eight to ten years. However, the suspect contended that the officers illegally entered her home to effectuate her arrest, and that statements she had given were inadmissible due to her Miranda being violated.
However, there were two sets of BWC footage to support the officers in both of these cases. In terms of the arrest, the footage clearly shows that the officer simply reached through the suspect’s open door and pulled her out, never once setting foot on her property. Secondly, the footage showed that the officer did, at first, mis-speak when reading the suspect her rights. However, it also showed that he later corrected himself and re-read the rights. The arrest was deemed lawful and the suspect’s statements were deemed admissible in court, all due to the evidence provided by the BWCs.
There are more cases of body camera footage helping to convict criminals than we could possibly print here. Trustworthy video footage takes away the ‘his word against mine’ argument that so many criminals try to use in court, and locks them into the objective facts as they’ve been recorded.