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body cam (bodycam)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A body cam (bodycam) is an audio/video recording device that is clipped to a person's clothing, usually on the torso. Body cams are a type of body worn video (BWV) device, which also includes devices like Google Glass and action cameras like GoPro. Body cams are used in recreational activities, surveillance, journalism and healthcare.

Law enforcement agencies are the most common organizations to use body cameras. Body cams are used to record the activities of officers in the performance of their duties and interactions with the public. Body cams are also used in the military to record training and events on the battlefield.

Body cams generally include an HD camera with a microphone. Most body cams have an on/off button for the camera and a separate button for the microphone to accommodate differing state laws on audio recordings. Some designs feature lights for dark environments and onboard storage or streaming video.

Body cams were largely implemented in law enforcement to address concerns of a lack of transparency and accountability. Recently, they have become more widely used in police departments after the rise of several high profile cases involving alleged police brutality. By documenting events, body cams and dash cams provide forensic evidence and serve as an objective view of transpired events. Privacy concerns exist, especially with the application of facial recognition, about the potential of such technologies to be used as surveillance of the population.

This was last updated in August 2017

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