It has always been labeled as good business sense to separate one’s work life from home life. There was once a time in which policemen followed this rule—they went to work, pulled a long shift, and came home to focus on family and leisurely pursuits. Today, however, the distinction between home and work life for policemen is more blurred than ever before. Many policemen are taking their workload home by driving their advanced police vehicle to and from work—and catching criminals while doing so. By driving advanced police transportation after hours, policemen testify to the truth that “a policemen’s job is never done.”
The use of in-car video surveillance became a significant aspect of law enforcement beginning in the 1980s. Up through the 1990s, policemen were accused nationally of racial profiling at gas stations, traffic checkpoints, and domestic disputes. The only way to disprove any thought of racial discrimination in the minds of the American public was to use video surveillance. No one could deny what the video footage would record. Over time, however, in-car video surveillance gained more of a place in law enforcement crime-fighting technology: now, it would be used to track criminals, monitor traffic behavior at all times, catch hidden disputes in action, and so on.
What are the added benefits of in-car video surveillance cameras?
- Police safety
- Self-critique and officer performance
- Report writing
- Observations that result in new criminal leads
- Evidence and in-court interrogation
- Complaints concerning police practices
- Public opinion
- Homeland Security
First, in-car video cameras ensure police safety. Police are often blamed for all sorts of harm and discrimination when a criminal would rather avoid arrest and jail time. In the past, criminals lied about policemen and their actions at the scene of a crime when in fact the officers dispatched did their jobs uprightly. The in-car surveillance has been implemented to protect the lives of policemen (physically) as well as morally and legally.
In 2002, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) was employed to perform a study on the impact of in-car surveillance cameras in law enforcement work. Twenty of the fifty states in the American Union were selected for this in-depth study. One of the impacts of in-car surveillance, according to participating law officers was that it serves as “a second pair of eyes” for policemen. In-car surveillance allowed law enforcement to track a criminal, even when the policemen’s back was turned. Additionally, in situations where a person seemed dangerous, cameras prevented criminals from trying to harm them on-site.
In-car surveillance also improved officer performance. According to the participants of the IACP study, the in-car surveillance improved their on-job performance because it reminded them that their actions would be scrutinized. In times where they may lapse and not thoroughly follow proper procedures, the cameras were there to motivate them to a thorough investigation and conduct. In short, in-car surveillance improved police performance by holding them accountable to their law enforcement duties.
Report writing improved as a result of in-car surveillance. Usually, when a law enforcement officer arrived at a scene to ask questions, he or she would scribble notes quickly and then drive back to the office to fill out forms of paperwork for hours on end. In-car surveillance allowed police officers to provide greater details in their police reports than they did prior to in-car surveillance installation. In-car surveillance currently saves policemen at least one hour each day on paperwork filing.
Lastly, vehicle surveillance helped law enforcement officials find other clues that provided new criminal leads. In camera footage, a criminal could flee the scene while dropping a box. An officer may not notice it—but the surveillance would note the box in the highway. Once a policeman reviewed the footage, he would notice the box unlike before, and search the box for clues or fingerprints to see if something could provide additional clues in a current robbery or murder investigation. Few criminals give themselves away initially—but many do give themselves up as time goes on by dropping evidential clues accidently. It is in these times of failure that police catch criminals that have gone undetected for months, if not years.
Police vehicles have become “smart” these days. They are more than just tools for a high-speed chase. What started as a way to protect police from legal charges has become a tool that protects police and innocent citizens from harm and scandal. Criminals must realize that for every move they make, crime-fighting technology is the “checkmate” every time.