Congressional Hearings Examine Policing Strategies and Body Camera Use

As mobile cameras come into wider use by law enforcement across the country, Congress is considering the potential of body-worn cameras as a tool for accountability and transparency.

On May 19, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism held a hearing on body-worn cameras to discuss how they can be best used to protect both law enforcement and the communities they serve. While body-worn cameras hold great promise for building relationships of trust and transparency between police and the public, their use also raises unique privacy concerns.

The hearing featured two panels of witnesses who testified on the feasibility and effectiveness of body-worn cameras. Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, testified during the hearing’s second panel, and said “thoughtful policies, developed in public with the input of civil rights advocates and the local community, are essential to ensuring that police-operated cameras enhance, rather than threaten, civil rights.”

On May 15, The Leadership Conference joined 33 other civil rights, privacy, and media rights organizations in releasing shared civil rights principles for the use of body-worn cameras. Henderson included these principles in his testimony, and urged governments and police departments to consider the principles as they develop their own policies.

On the same day as the Senate’s hearing, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on policing strategies for the 21st century. The hearing’s witnesses testified on strategies to both protect – and build trust between – police officers and the public. During his opening remarks, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R. Va., said that the situations in Ferguson and New York made it “clear that we must find a better way for our police and citizens to interact both in everyday situations, and when more difficult circumstances arise.”

You can watch Chairman Goodlatte’s opening remarks and the first part of the House hearing here:

Part two is here.