Should Indian Police carry Cameras at all times ?

Are cameras on police the right way to bring in accountability ?

August 2014 : With the recent shooting of a Missouri teen in the US and the drama that followed there have been debates touching on issues of race, police brutality, recording of police activities by citizens and a broader debate on civilian rights. In middle of all this, as reported by Ars Technica “Claire McCaskill, the Democratic senator from Missouri, says police departments nationwide should require their officers to wear body cameras in order to qualify for the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding they receive each year.”

Thoughts on this demand for accountability from cops echoes the fear of moving further towards a surveillance state. On the other hand are the supporters of this idea quote the popular phrase from a graphic novel – “Who watches the watchmen ?”

With easy and cheap access to technology, miniaturization of cameras and mobile internet speeds fast enough to enable video streaming from cameras this question will only come up more often across the world. As a commentator on the linked article rightly said – “It is an unfortunate truth that positive change frequently comes from tragedy.”

This demand for positive change was seen in India when protests broke out after the December 16 gangrape incident in New Delhi. The brutality of the crime along with the phenomenal demand for change shook the system into action.

In India the actions of police are quite often under review by the media. If a move like the one proposed by the US senator is approved in the United States, it will not be a surprise to see similar demands rise in India.

Of course it will lead to a debate from all parties involved. And will also raise question of the efficiency of the police force working under a constant surveillance.

We asked our readers for views and feedback and this are the points that came back.

A few points we see in support of the move :
1) More accountability for police.
2) Possibly less corruption.
3) If Police Stations are under constant surveillance it can reduce the number of cases of human rights violations in custody.
4) It can save time and effort in investigations if the police officer is connected to the central database via internet connection at all times.

Those in opposition of this move :
1) Monitoring the police 24/7 is not possible. So it might not have a direct impact in reducing the incidences of corruption as the corrupt in India always find a way.
2) It will hinder the cops from doing their job when dealing with informants or as in information leakage risk in the process of planning activities.
3) Police need to be disciplined rather than put under constant observation. Training is the solution.
4) Cost of implementation is high and the money can be used elsewhere.
5) Is it even constitutional ? Or will it violate the rights of the officer on duty.

Points on both sides are pretty valid.The idea of camera mounting is not to stop the cases of excessive use of force alone, but also to bring in a sense of responsibility in the police. A very pertinent question is who would have access to the recorded data. Will it be available only to the police department, judiciary, a government appointed body or the general public.

With cheaper technology and faster internet connections, it’s will be a question we would be faced with in the near future.