EDITORIAL: Body cameras only one piece of the puzzle

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At a time when police departments nationwide are under fire for showing little regard for the public they serve, DeKalb police have taken a proactive step that may lead to greater transparency.

DeKalb police are testing body camera systems that could be part of every police officer’s gear in the future.

We applaud DeKalb’s Public Safety Chief Operating Officer Cedric Alexander for considering the use of body cameras as one means to better keep everyone honest when the public and police interact, serving as a record of exactly what was said and what was done.

DeKalb law enforcement officials have been evaluating body cameras from different companies to determine which might be best suited for use here.

The wearable cameras record officers’ interactions with the public, and the recordings cannot be edited or deleted, according to news reports.

“Body cameras are going to be the technology of the future,” Alexander said.

Unfortunately in too many communities, new approaches to policing come only after tragedy, accusations and protests. Not so here.

At a time when so much turmoil regarding leadership (or the lack of it) in county government has been constantly debated in court and the court of public opinion, it’s refreshing to see positive leadership demonstrated in our police department.

However this technology and the transparency that it comes with could come with a high cost for the camera equipment and data storage. Will the Board of Commissions approve spending millions to outfit all 690 officers with the wearable cameras and for the upkeep of the system? Will the public support the significant expense compared to other public safety investments?

Body cameras aren’t the answer to all issues that may result when police and residents interact. Alexander and his leadership team must continually evaluate if everything is being done to assure that DeKalb’s police force is the best it can be and operating in the best manner possible. Are the right individuals being selected for the force? Are personnel and duties properly aligned? Is training adequate? Is respect for the public a priority? Is discipline fairly administered? Are community complaints seriously addressed? Are community/police alliances being strengthened?

The answers indicate the culture of the police force and likely affect how officers approach their mission to protecting and serving the public.

Technology provides us with an array of new opportunities in communication and surveillance, but it is not the answer to everything.

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