Increasing the use of police body cameras will create a rise in video evidence
Increasing the use of police body cameras will create a rise in video evidence (photo compliments of CBS)

On Tuesday, September 15, LAPD officers shot and killed a man who officers claimed had a gun, which was recovered next to the suspect. As of June 1 of 2015, LAPD officers had shot and killed 10 people according to the Guardian Newspaper. Nationally, law enforcement officers had killed roughly 450 people by June of 2015. So what makes the LAPD shooting from September 15th different? It was one of the first LAPD shootings captured by police worn body cameras. As the LAPD, and dozens of other departments nationwide, begin to deploy body cameras, attorneys can expect to see a rise in video evidence and a lot more cases – both criminal and civil – where video may be central to their case.

As the number of police body cameras in use continues to rise, so do the costs. Initially, the upsurge in videos will certainly give attorneys and prosecutors more evidence to use in their trials and proceedings; but will this rise in evidence be sustainable (cost-wise) in the long term? The City Manager of Berkeley, CA estimates the costs of storing the videos captured by body cameras to be approximately $45,000 a year per 150 cameras. In a department like the LAPD, which plans to have cameras for all 20,000 full-time officers, that could come to $6,000,000 per year. This price tag would be for storage alone, and it does not include other potential costs such as maintenance, installation, repairs, etc. Other estimates suggest the cost could be as high as $24,000,000 per year for the LAPD to store the videos. With costs that high, departments may not be able to afford the body cameras far into the future.

In the here and now, however, attorneys need to take advantage of the rise in video evidence. The analysis, enhancement, and use of video and audio evidence can be crucial in clarifying the details and facts of a case. Having a firm and complete understanding of what the video evidence shows and how to use it can be the difference between winning or losing your case.