November 1, 2022

How to Tell if a Police Bodycam Is On

The world is becoming more and more under surveillance. In just three years up to 2018, the number of surveillance cameras in the US almost doubled.

By 2018, 70 million surveillance cameras were operating across the States. In China, there are over 400 million of these types of cameras. In fact, more than half the world’s total surveillance cameras are in that nation.

Another type of surveillance camera that has been in the media of late is the bodycam. And specifically, the ones used by law enforcement.

There are questions over whether these types of cameras are justified when bringing law and order or if they constitute a breach of privacy. While it is certainly hoped that they would do more harm than good, there may be occasions when you might be concerned about being filmed. 

Why are bodycams worn?

While civil rights groups are unhappy about the potential for surveillance cameras to be abused, there are plenty of positives about them too.

Certain discreet cameras can be used for good, and they can help stop crime or trap perpetrators. Nanny cams, for instance, have been used by many parents, and in some cases, they have stopped children from being harmed. 

Some vloggers use body cams when they are out in public, making videos and conducting pranks or interviews. In the case of the police, they are used for evidence and, in some ways, to protect themselves and the public. 

A discrete body camera can pick up vital evidence of crimes happening live without the intrusive nature of a handheld camera. Sometimes the footage from these cameras has helped to convict criminals, and on other occasions, it has shown the police acted unlawfully. They could be described as a double-edged sword in the wrong hands. 

Is it legal for police to wear bodycams?

Not everywhere allows the use of bodycams by police. According to NCSL, as of April 2021, there were seven states that allowed the use of body cams by police. 

Back in 2019, plans were being put in place for all police forces across the UK to start operating body cameras. The police pursuit cars also have dashboard cameras in that country, as do American ones. 

If you are concerned about the use of police body cameras, then check out the regulations for your state or region. It is likely, though, those body cameras on police in many countries will be standard. China has deployed millions of cameras to its law enforcement agencies. Canadian police also use body cameras in their everyday duties, according to Spycentre Spy Shop. 

Can you tell if a police bodycam is on and filming?

If you find yourself in a conversation with a police officer, it may cross your mind to wonder whether you are being filmed. Regardless of the context of your conversation, you may be concerned about your privacy rights. 

It is common now to see people taking snaps and filming with their devices. Individuals are constantly being filmed, and for the most part, it is something that isn’t even thought about too much. 

Understanding if you are being filmed by the police is fairly simple. If you are techy, you can use code to find out how to check if an Android device has a camera, understanding police body cameras is far easier. 

How do you tell if a police body camera is filming?

Police generally do not record casual conversations. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about being filmed if you are simply asking for directions or having a general conversation with a member of the police. 

If, however, the police are attending to a matter to do with law enforcement, then you can rightly assume that their cameras have been activated. When a call is made to police officers to attend an incident, they will activate their cameras to gather evidence. Alternatively, just ask them. 

Body cams aren’t just to record the public; they are there to provide transparency and also act as a deterrent. Many incidents that could have escalated were stopped due to the existence of surveillance cameras. 

Can a police officer alter or edit the video on their bodycam?

This is one of the areas of concern when it comes to surveillance and protecting privacy. Anyone using the net understands the need to keep your data private and protect yourself. There are security measures to hide the vulnerability in some mobile applications, but in the real world, there are other invasions of privacy, and they can be doctored. 

The footage taken by police body cams can be ordered to be released. However, the police can take up to 45 days to release the video being demanded, and they can keep putting this off for up to a year. 

When the video is finally released, it may not be the same exact footage that was taken. This is because there are few laws based on what editing can take place. The police are fully able to edit footage from a body camera to suit the prosecution as long as it stays within a few flimsy laws. 

How long can a bodycam film for?

There are many different types of bodycams on the market, and even the tiniest, most discreet ones can record hours of footage. 

One buttonhole camera with 64Gb of memory is capable of storing up to 32 hours of video and audio. However, it is the battery life that will determine how much can be recorded in many instances. 

A small spy type of body cam may have a battery life of an hour, but a professional police bodycam is more likely to be able to last up to 7 hours on continuous filming. 

Is it lawful for a member of the public to wear a body cam and film?

Cameras are possibly being used more today than ever. Although sales of traditional digital cameras are in decline, nearly every smartphone and the mobile device contains one. 

The selfie, snapping photos of food for Instagram, and simple travel photos are taken by millions every single day. This doesn’t mean that you can legally film anything you want, though. 

Filming in public places is generally allowed if it doesn’t break any privacy laws. Certain places are off-limits, such as changing rooms, where people would naturally expect privacy. Private conversations cannot be recorded either without permission from all parties involved. 

Can you film the police?

According to the ACLU, when in a public space, you can film freely, and this includes the police. Indeed, there have been many instances of the public using their smartphones to film encounters with the police to provide their own evidence if something wrongful occurs. 

The police have no right to stop you from filming unless they believe you are actually interfering with a law enforcement incident. They also cannot demand to see footage or delete it without a warrant. 


Although many people are worried about the use of more and more surveillance cameras, there are many positives too. While some shady countries may use surveillance cameras to monitor their citizens, most are simply trying to make their nation safer. 

Body cameras, by and large, are a good idea. They make the police accountable for their actions while also providing evidence and a deterrent against crime. 

If you are wondering if you are being filmed, then you can simply question the police officer you are talking to. They will tell you. If you are involved in an unlawful incident, then you can rightly assume that you are being filmed.

About the author 

Kyrie Mattos

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