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Buried under body cameras

Buried under storage

May 13, 2020

The increasing use of police worn body cameras have introduced a wave of issues resulting from the actions of parties on either side of the camera. To help courts navigate the use of body-worn cameras, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and the State Justice Institute produced Body-Worn Cameras and the Courts. The report discusses the functionality of body-worn cameras and reviews their impact on the courts. One of the areas the report addresses is the cost of body cameras. In the past, the cost has been looked at in terms of the police department, but as body cameras become more common new costs are revealed that impact the courts, public defenders and court appointed attorneys.

Public defenders and court appointed attorneys are struggling to review the thousands of hours of camera footage from all officers present at an incident. The volume of footage is so great attorneys are struggling to meet the due process rights of their clients. Some attorneys are even leaving the public defender’s office over the problem. While paralegals can assist with downloading, logging, reviewing the files with clients and other administrative tasks, they cannot review the footage for the attorneys. That puts all the hours of review squarely in the lap of already overloaded public defenders and court appointed attorneys.

Some attorneys estimate the increased workload nearing 20 percent. As states work to get a handle on shifting resources to manage the increase in work for public-defenders and court appointed attorneys, a workload assessment may prove to be a valuable tool in determining the real costs and requirements. Workload assessments are empirically driven studies that account for variations in complexity to determine the total amount of work required to dispose of a case. This provides a useful tool to negotiate funding and to most effectively allocate limited resources.

To share how your court is handling the influx of digital evidence from body worn cameras follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest and share your experiences.

For more information on this or other topics impacting state courts, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.