“This is one of our biggest concerns – the promise of this technology as a police oversight mechanism will be undermined if individual officers can manipulate what is taped and what isn’t,” ACLU Senior Policy Analyst, Jay Stanley told Fusion.
“There needs to be very strong policies that make very clear when police officers are expected to be recording and back that up with strict enforcement,” he said.
This has relevance in light of President Obama’s plan, announced last week, to get more body cameras onto the vests of police officers nationwide. Michael Brown’s family has demanded that all police officers wear cameras.
The cameras are marketed to police departments as a way to reduce citizen complaints and litigation against officers. Steve Ward, CEO of body camera manufacturer Vievu, told Fusion, “If police officers wear body cameras, 50 percent of their complaints will go away overnight.” He said the cameras “overwhelmingly” help the officers.
The police body camera wasn’t rolling when 19-year-old Mary Hawkes was shot and killed by an Albuquerque police officer in April. The police officer’s camera was turned off when the officer fired his weapon. Just this week, the officer involved was fired after an internal probe found he turned off his camera at least four times. It’s very rare for officers to be fired for failing to properly use body cameras.
In New Orleans this summer, a police officer had her body camera turned off when she shot a 26-year-old man in the forehead during a traffic stop. The case is still under investigation. The department told Fusion there have been 39 internal affairs investigations involving the use of body cameras this year. So far, 17 of those officers were investigated and sanctioned while four were cleared of any wrongdoing. A report conducted by an independent monitor assigned by the U.S. Department of Justice released in August found cameras, including body cameras and the more prevalent police dashboard cameras, were not used in 60 percent of the use of force incidents reported between January to May 2014.
In an email to Fusion, the New Orleans Police Department said it is working to “build a solid system of accountability,” recently introducing “new activity sheets that officers must fill out in the field to “document that they are wearing a working body-worn camera.”
The Ft. Worth, TX Police Department didn’t provide detailed data about violations of body camera policies. According to documents provided to Fusion, the police department found all allegations made against police officers since Jan. 1 of this year – with or without body camera evidence – were either “unfounded” or “did not result in discipline.”
“A lot of people are pinning their hopes on the cameras, but the reality is we have to change the culture of policing,” said Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos Martinez. “That’s changing peoples’ hearts and that’s very difficult to do.”
HT: Michelle Alexander via Facebook
INVESTIGATION OF 5 CITIES FINDS BODY CAMERAS USUALLY HELP POLICE. Fusion.net, 12/7/14.