As body cameras are becoming evermore present in police departments throughout the country, one Iowa venue is adopting them as well: a school district.
The Daily Caller reports that in an unconventional move, the Burlington Community School District is requiring its administrators to wear body cameras in order to record the interactions between them and students (and their parents). Burlington school officials are believed to be some of the first civilian professionals that must wear body cameras at work.
One of the administrators, Superintendent Pat Coen, said the school district’s mandate was done to ensure “personal accountability.”
“Did we treat this person with dignity, honor and respect? And if we didn’t, why didn’t we?” Coen explained. Coen, a former Army soldier, compared the cameras to those he had to wear on his helmet in order to record and archive what happened on the field.
Body cameras are becoming the norm for many police departments as of late due to increased pressure on the departments to improve accountability. Before body cameras, car dash cameras had been used extensively by police officers. More than 72% of state police and highway patrol vehicles today use dash cameras while on-duty.
Some commentators believe, however, that the cameras are worn with two intentions in mind: to improve employee behavior and to protect administrators from wrongful accusations of misconduct. A district principal was accused of assaulting a student last year and was only exonerated after school cameras found the incident did not happen.
Under the mandate, the principal of each school in the district must upload each day’s footage and produce it if a complaint is launched. However, administrators have the right to turn their cameras on and off whenever they want, which lends credence to the argument that the cameras are their to protect the administrators and not necessarily the students.
Critics of the body camera policy also point out that unlike police officers, who operate in public and for the most part interact with adults, the school administrators mostly deal with children and are confined to a private, enclosed area. National School Safety and Security Services official Ken Trump is skeptical of the idea, both in schools and in general.
“You have to ask, really, why are we doing this?”Trump said. “Is it going to create more problems than it solves?”