July 18th, 2011
It’s always seemed pretty obvious to me that the best way to protect citizens against unprofessional cops is to have a recording device on police officers at all time when they’re on duty. A little flip-type camera would be great, but a small digital voice recorder would probably work just as well. The cop turns in on when he punches in, then hands the recorder over when he goes off the clock, the data gets pulled and archived. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, no one would ever listen to it. But in cases of a dispute, the data would be there to lend clarity.
And having a recording of all police interactions would protect the officers, too. I’m sure that one of the larger downsides of the job is dealing with unfounded complaints of police misconduct. If you’re the type of cop who always conducts himself professionally, being recorded would be a great insurance policy.
But best of all, if everyone knew that police were recording, then I suspect that behavior would be better on both sides of most police encounters. Because both parties would have assurance that the other doesn’t have recourse to lying about it in the future. Cops would probably be more professional, citizens would probably be more respectful and helpful, and, as a consequence, the job of police officers would probably be both easier and more pleasant.
I honestly can’t think of a downside.
So why don’t we record police officers’ interactions with civilians? Because the police would never stand for it. Galley Friend (and police sympathizer) J.S. sends along this post about body cameras from a blogger who claims to be a Chicago police officer. Here’s his verdict:
This is a camera about the size of a current microphone package actually attached to your vest that films everything when activated. And how are they selling it to coppers in Oakland? It’s all for your safety!
- Whether attached to shirt lapels or small headsets, the cameras are intended to provide more transparency and security to officers on the street and to reduce the number of misconduct complaints and potential lawsuits.”First and foremost, it protects the officers, it protects the citizens and it can help with an investigation and it shows what happened,” said Steve Tidwell, executive director of the FBI National Academy Associates in Quantico, Va. “It can level the playing field, instead of getting just one or two versions. It’s all there in living color, so to speak.”
In Oakland, where the department is still under federal supervision because of a case in which four officers were caught planting drugs on suspects a decade ago, the cameras are like another set of eyes, said Capt. Ed Tracey.Well, if a feeb is recommending it, what could possibly go wrong? And if a member of management adds his two cents worth, well golly, this must be flawless!
Once again, it falls to the sane who walk among the thin blue line to point out that these provide exactly the same amount of “protection” to officers as our Blue Light Cameras offer to the citizenry – that is to say, “none.” This device is a witness that might provide assistance in the event of a bad beef in Oakland, but we can still count on one hand exactly how many prosecutions have been brought against bad beefers who have lied on sworn affidavits against CPD members.
“Never stand for it” seems too strong. As the reaction from “Second City Cop” suggests, what I think he really objects to is the idea that the camera will help him deal with “bad beefers” (you got to love cop slang). If you could ensure that criminals who do lie about their encounters with cops and are caught using these cameras are prosecuted for their lies, as you say, this can only help the police in the long run.
So I think it is more a question of how the cameras are used once they are implemented and whether or not both bad cops and bad criminals are punished with video evidence.
Anyway, whether cops like it or not, for all the reasons you detail above, I think these cameras are needed to ensure cops can do their jobs effectively.
[…] Jonathan Last now points to a less encouraging blog entry on the same topic, from a guy who claims to be a Chicago police officer: Once again, it falls to the sane who walk among the thin blue line to point out that these provide exactly the same amount of “protection” to officers as our Blue Light Cameras offer to the citizenry – that is to say, “none.” This device is a witness that might provide assistance in the event of a bad beef in Oakland, but we can still count on one hand exactly how many prosecutions have been brought against bad beefers who have lied on sworn affidavits against CPD members. […]