Body Cameras and Unintended Consequences

Body Cameras and Unintended Consequences. Longtime friend, fellow army officer, and blogger from Right on the Left Coast, Darren Miller, sent me a link from P J Media, and it’s brought up a few good points I’ve made over the last decade. Liberals wanted body-worn cameras (BWCs) or on local police for ages, as it would show all cops do is go out and patrol the streets for unarmed black and brown men to shoot. And this would provide the evidence to show it. Evidence. Why am I getting the image of Bufford T. Justice in my head? 

The Left Wanted Body Cams on Cops, Until They Saw the Truth 

By Kevin Downey Jr. 

Lefties have been demanding police wear body cameras for years, believing the public would finally see all the wanton acts of violence perpetrated by cops against peaceful, law-abiding members of society. Then they saw the truth.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has wanted body cams since the death of Eric Garner, back in 2014 when she was public advocate of New York. She even suggested body cameras were a good idea for cops and would save the city of New York money.
 

A year later, after the death of Walter Scott in South Carolina, she told us why she REALLY wanted the police to wear body cams,

The video from South Carolina released last night demonstrates the crucial importance of body cameras for police encounters. Incidents of recorded police brutality are reaching a critical mass nationwide, and they underscore the urgent need for police reform, transparency, and accountability measuresincluding body cameras, improved police-community relations, and innovative technology in police departments. We must expand the use of body cameras in New York City and in police departments across the nation

Then Further down

But the truth can be painful, especially when reality doesn’t jibe with the left-wing narrative. USA Today moaned that. Bodycams haven’t lived up to promises of exposing police misconduct, largely because cops decide what will and will not be shown to the public. They whined that police videos of heroic cops get released ASAP but videos involving police shootings can take years before anyone sees them.

Odd considering we all saw the body cam videos involving the shootings of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, both within days of the incidents.

It would seem that the templated reporting on BWCs has been disappointing to the usual suspects who just know all cops just want to shoot unarmed minorities every day when they wake up. Now I can understand Ms. James’ attitude on wanting evidence to persecute police officers. After all, she’s a Democrat. But I did some research on this matter, and some of the critical points found after BWCs were introduced to various departments: 

  1. Increased and improved interaction between LEOs and citizens. Many people felt more relaxed speaking with police when the conversation was openly recorded. On a personal observation, a BWC can also restrain an agitated civilian. Occasionally someone would tell me, in an openly threatening manner, “I’m recording you!” My reply would be, “And we are recording you.
  2. The BWCs also reminded officers to be polite. There are times to use profanity, but sometimes cops do slip and use it excessively. 
  3. Evidence from BWCs has led to an increase in arrest, prosecutions, and guilty pleas. Logical, as BWC evidence will cooperate the officer’s actions. Drunk drivers are a classic example. I’m driving on patrol and observe a car weaving across multiple lanes of traffic. I start recording, and it documents my reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop. It then supports my initial observations (e.g. slurring of words, unable to handle minor actions such as finding a license), observations on the Standard Field Sobriety Test, and overall handing of the investigation. 
  4. BWC use results in fewer complaints against officers, more complaints being found to be “Unfounded” (Complaint was without merit or false), or “Exonerated” (The complaint stated what the officer did, but his actions were in accordance with law and procedure). In another personal example, I was tasked to review the BWC videos of two officers who handled a minor accident. One of the drivers complained he asked for a supervisor on the scene, but they would not call for one. I pointed out how the video showed the officer twice asked the driver if he wanted a sergeant, and the man said “No.” each time. The complaint was dismissed. 
  5. Another benefit for law enforcement instruction is videos of officers’ actions in the field for training. Countless videos are not used as training aids, showing how cops handed a situation well, or not so well. Reviewing a video of an officer who could improve is not to condemn, but to constructively criticize him, and find better ways to handle a similar manner. As Otto Von Bismarck said, “Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”   

One effect of BWCs was probably not expected by leftists. If an officer is recorded, he will not take “field expedient” methods to handle incidents. If I stop a man matching the description of a robbery suspect, pat him down, and discover he’s not the man I’m looking for, I then let him go. However, what if I find a pack of crack in his pocket? The “formal procedure” is to arrest the new suspect, book and charge him, etc. All this while the robbery suspect is still on the run. As the man I got is not that important at this moment, in times past I would “field tag the evidence,” i.e., throw it into the sewer, send him on his way, and continue looking for the more important criminal. But discretion is being taken away by BWC. I”ll go into more detail on this in a future column.

While more study and analysis is needed as BWCs are fielded, it’s without question they have been beneficial to policing in the US. I would think the usual suspects would be happy about that. Strangely, they are not. If we go by Ms. James’ comments, you will think the only purpose was to attack police in the field. 

Michael A. Thiac is a retired Army intelligence officer, with over 23 years experience, including serving in the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the Middle East. He is also a retired police patrol sergeant, with over 22 years� service, and over ten year�s experience in field training of newly assigned officers. He has been published at The American ThinkerPoliceOne.com, and on his personal blog, A Cop�s Watch

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