Say 'geeze!' — more room cameras are on their way

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James M. Berklan
James M. Berklan

Editor's note: This story has been updated to show the correct number of states which allow cameras in residents' rooms.

If you didn't work in long-term care and I asked you to specify what Illinois, Washington, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico have in common, we could be waiting for your answer for a very long time.

The short answer: These five states have passed laws to allow cameras in nursing home residents' rooms. They number five now, but I expect more to join the bandwagon in the not-too-distant future. 

For one, there have been several well-publicized instances of “granny cams” busting caregivers or others for unsavory behavior recently.

But a non-nursing home incident could be the real spark for much wider video surveillance. Anyone who has seen the video of a University of Cincinnati police officer shooting and killing a motorist in July knows what I'm referring to.

The outrageous incident involved a white police officer calmly questioning a black motorist about a missing front license plate. The motorist does not have or produce a driver's license and the low-key conversation winds up suddenly turning violent. The officer draws his weapon and shoots into the open window — he could have hit the driver with his pistol, he was so close.

The officer later claims that the driver dragged him with the car, a lie two fellow officers who subsequently arrive on the scene repeat. 

There is no doubt what actually happened, however, and the shooter was quickly indicted on murder charges — all because the police officer's body camera recorded the entire incident. 

The camera — and it alone — was the only reliable witness to the shooting. Were it not there, an entirely different scenario could have become the on-the-record “truth.”

Pictures don't lie and seeing is believing. Can there be any doubt that line of thought will grow among nursing home residents' families? This is in no way to equate long-term care givers with a police officer indicted for murder. But family members suspicious  about a loved ones' failing health — even under the best of care conditions — tend to demand greater scrutiny.

Recent inflammatory exchanges between authorities and civilians around the country — some backed up by video, like in Cincinnati — have created new legions clamoring for police cameras.

Fair or not, long-term care operators can expect cries for more transparency thrust upon them, too.