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Thu, Aug. 22

Editorial: Body cameras could de-escalate conflicts

(The Associated Press)

(The Associated Press)

Late last month we commended law enforcement departments across the country, such as those in the Prescott area, for eying on-body cameras as a tool and solution going forward. The technology would help police avoid situations like what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, and the killing of teenager Michael Brown.

Prescott police see this becoming a reality as soon as 2016.

The tragedy of Brown's death by a police officer shows the value of recording devices. Video evidence could answer many questions about the confrontation and perhaps even identify the aggressor.

Now turn your attention to the south - the U.S. border with Mexico. Border patrol interaction with drug and human smugglers, in addition to the cases of people on both sides being shot or murdered, also would benefit from these cameras.

This week, the U.S. Border Patrol announced it will begin testing the use of body cameras by agents on Oct. 1 at its training academy in Artesia, New Mexico, according to the Associated Press.

On one hand, the U.S. Justice Department says evidence exists that police and civilians behave better when cameras are present. While footage can quickly resolve civilian complaints and lawsuits, and be used to train officers, the White House adds that requiring law enforcement officers to wear cameras could be a way to ease mistrust by the public.

Already, the Justice Department adopted a policy that creates a "presumption" that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents will electronically record interviews with those in custody. This includes on-body cameras and is a change in policy for the FBI, which previously had a policy barring such recordings.

The National Border Patrol Council, representing the vast majority of the roughly 21,000 agents, would need to sign off on camera use in the field. Consider, though, that's 21,000 - a huge number of law enforcement officials.

Their union says cameras could cause agents to hesitate when their lives are threatened, and managers could use them for fishing expeditions to punish certain agents.

This is not about Big Brother horning in on civil rights.

We liken it to the photo enforcement cameras that were in three Prescott Valley locations.

These cameras are more about reducing the controversial interactions - or accidents - with the public. Period.

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