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U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras 643

Posted by Soulskill
from the proof-is-in-the-pudding dept.
Several readers sent word that U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has begun speaking in favor of mandatory cameras for police across the country. "Everywhere I go people now have cameras. And police officers are now at a disadvantage, because someone can tape the last part of an encounter and not tape the first part of the encounter. And it gives the impression that the police officer has overreacted when they haven't." This follows the recent controversy ove the shooting death of Michael Brown in a police incident, as well as a White House petition on the subject that rocketed to 100,000 signatures.

McCaskill continued, "I would like to see us say, 'If you want federal funding in your community, you've got to have body cams on your officers. And I think that would go a long way towards solving some of these problems, and it would be a great legacy over this tragedy that's occurred in Ferguson, regardless of what the facts say at the end as to whether or not anyone is criminally culpable."
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U.S. Senator: All Cops Should Wear Cameras

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  • I like... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ronin Developer (67677) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:11PM (#47767213)

    Of course, somebody will think this a bad idea...

    • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:22PM (#47767341) Homepage

      Though I don't think, this particular one is a bad idea, I am worried about the yet another illustration of how the Federal government's control reaches into the crooks and nannies it was never supposed to reach [wikipedia.org]:

      If you want federal funding in your community, you've got to fill in the blank

      By ratcheting up the Federal taxes, the Federal government has come into position to dictate the terms to local governments, who can neither print money nor raise their taxes to finance themselves without bankrupting local economies. But don't you worry — it is not dictatorship, you can always refuse the federal monies, can you not?

      • The federal government has acted as a check on the tyranny of state governments -- who traditionally disenfranchised minorities through institutions like slavery [wikipedia.org], Jim Crow Laws [wikipedia.org], separate inferior education [wikipedia.org], and police brutality -- which is precisely the case here.

        Yet again, we trot out the state rights libertarians adrift of any irony that they in fact they thought black folk were property [wikipedia.org] -- and owned them. I'm not saying Madison and Jefferson weren't brilliant -- but you shouldn't ask them about oppression for the same reason we don't ask Michael Vick about animal rights.

      • by towermac (752159)

        If you want federal funding in your community, you've got to fill in the blank

        Yep.

        I think it was Montana that once tried to refuse the federal money over the speed limit (not many here have driven a Montana highway at 55).

        I don't think they can even refuse the money..

        • by perpenso (1613749) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:52PM (#47768523)

          I think it was Montana that once tried to refuse the federal money over the speed limit (not many here have driven a Montana highway at 55).

          Arizona tried to ignore 55 and not enforce it in certain areas where they thought higher speeds were appropriate and safe. The feds got annoyed and tried to cut highway funding for Arizona. So Arizona started enforcing the 55 mph speed limit. A friend got pulled over and received a ticket, not for speeding -- a moving violation that would put points on his drivers license and raise his insurance rate, but for "improper use of finite resources" -- an infractions that did not show up on one's driving record. In other words he received a ticket for "wasting gas" not speeding.

    • Re:I like... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MondoGordo (2277808) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:33PM (#47767481)
      it's only a bad idea if the police have control over the recordings ... then you would see incriminating footage getting lost or deleted (and blamed on "equipment failure" ) & only exculpatory (for the police) footage being preserved. I'm all for it (despite the expansion of the panopticon) if the cameras are always on (including an officer recall if the feed fails), the feed is streamed to a remote location, the record is administered by a public advocacy agency and available for public review, and all interactions of a routine nature are deleted after a fixed period of time.
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:11PM (#47767215) Homepage

    Or will we one day hear, that, unfortunately, the cameras worn by the officers involved had "malfunctioned" at the most inopportune moment?

    (Pay no attention to the remains of chewing gum around the lenses.)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:20PM (#47767321)

      Add more, Body cam, gun cam, taser cam and pepper spray cam. If the officer is going to escalate force it must be documented. "Failure" of multiple filming devices at the same time is grounds for immediate arrest of the officer.

    • by jareth-0205 (525594) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:21PM (#47767337) Homepage

      Or will we one day hear, that, unfortunately, the cameras worn by the officers involved had "malfunctioned" at the most inopportune moment?

      (Pay no attention to the remains of chewing gum around the lenses.)

      Indeed, but then it will immediately put suspicion on the police officer, whereas at the moment there is nothing other than their sayso about what happened. Since police testimony is often implicitly trusted by magistrates and juries, I would much rather there be a 'but what happened to your camera?' defence than not at all.

  • by jerpyro (926071) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:12PM (#47767225)

    The problem with this is that if all cops feel like they're being audited all of the time, they're less likely to let you off the hook for a minor violation. Then since they have to charge you with something, and there's supporting evidence, you're not going to get a plea or reduction from a mandatory sentence in court.

    I know that doesn't sound like a big deal but cops let thousands of people off per day on minor things where people just need a warning.

    • by TheRealSteveDallas (2505582) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:17PM (#47767279)
      They are also less likely to charge you with a bullshit charge they "discovered" having stopped you on sketchy grounds in the first place.
    • by ixl (811473) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:20PM (#47767315)
      The US has a strong tradition of prosecutorial discretion. DAs decline to charge people all the time, in court, with a written record. Cameras wouldn't necessarily require the death of leniency, although I see your point that they might encourage it if cops decide to be stricter that as a form of protest. But who knows, that just might encourage people to repeal stupid laws *cough*non-violent possession*cough*.
    • by StevenMaurer (115071) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:21PM (#47767329) Homepage

      Police are given wide discretion by the courts. There is no reason to believe that anyone will be auditing them for failure to write up a citation.

      This is more to prevent them from beating the ever-loving-crap out of a black guy for driving in the wrong neighborhood. *Ahem* Sorry: "resisting arrest".

    • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:28PM (#47767433) Homepage

      I know that doesn't sound like a big deal but cops let thousands of people off per day on minor things where people just need a warning.

      That may, actually, be a good thing — enforcing police objectivity by ending the selective enforcement [wikipedia.org] (sometimes affectionately referred to as "Prosecutorial Discretion" [dailykos.com]).

      Then, if a silly law affects too many people — including judges, mayors, and good-looking women, who would've all gotten off with a warning before — the law may get amended...

    • Another consequences might include the reluctance of some citizens to talk to police about certain things or people, or just have a simple friendly conversation. Everyone will feel the need to apply the "lawyer filter" to everything they say. That won't help trust one bit.
    • by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus...slashdot@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:31PM (#47767467) Homepage Journal

      The problem with this is that if all cops feel like they're being audited all of the time, they're less likely to let you off the hook for a minor violation. Then since they have to charge you with something, and there's supporting evidence, you're not going to get a plea or reduction from a mandatory sentence in court.

      I know that doesn't sound like a big deal but cops let thousands of people off per day on minor things where people just need a warning.

      Frankly, I'm a little less concerned with the "problem" of cops letting off people who do commit minor infractions, than the problem of cops falsifying evidence or destroying exculpatory evidence, beating or torturing suspects, and lying on police reports in order to arrest people who haven't committed any crime. You getting out of a speeding ticket for going 60 in a 55 is less important than Joe Innocent getting arrested for walking in the wrong part of town while black, having a gun with defaced serial numbers planted on him, and suddenly facing 10 year felony charge with an "option" to plead guilty and only get a year (and a felony record).

    • by apraetor (248989)
      Cops have the authority and discretion to issue verbal or written warnings instead of citations for moving violations, so video recording won't change that. For the rest, it would be quite expensive to have auditors watch over all the footage from each officer's shift; screening would either be random, or the video records could be kept unwatched unless a complaint or other legal matter requires the tape to be reviewed. Your arguments sound more like excuses not to do it than legitimate reasons. It might ma
    • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:39PM (#47767575) Homepage

      The problem with this is that if all cops feel like they're being audited all of the time, they're less likely to let you off the hook for a minor violation

      This would be a great thing.

      I say that not because I have a stick up my ass, but because I recognize that selective enforcement is a huge problem in this society. The problem isn't that some people get away with some offenses. The problem is that it creates a society that is complacent with criminalization or prohibition of huge ranges of activities based on the understanding that cops will be reasonable people and will exercise good judgement to pursue only "the right" infractions. This is terrible for two reasons, primarily. The first reason why selective enforcement is terrible is because it allows for an absurd legal code. Harvey Silverglate's book "Three Felonies a Day" outlines how our current system ensures that virtually everyone is guilty of something. Selective enforcement is the only reason that 99% of our population is able to be free from prison at any given point in time. The elimination of selective enforcement would force a long-overdue overhaul of our legal code in order to avoid a 100% incarceration rate.

      The second reason why selective enforcement is terrible is because it affords law enforcement officials entirely too much power, power which is frequently abused. The problem is that cops are the ones that decide who gets away with what. Not only does that create a huge conflict of interest [wikipedia.org] which prevents police from being able to police each other, but it also opens up other avenues of favoritism, encourages bribery, and overall corrupts our system of justice.

      If cops couldn't let thousands of people off per day on minor things, those minor things would cease to be illegal and our legal code would finally have some semblance of sanity.

      • by netsavior (627338) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:37PM (#47768329)
        +1 to the parent. Selective enforcement blows.
        The saying goes: "If everyone is guilty of something, they can punish anyone for anything."

        Don't like someone's youtube channel? Find a video which has a poster of Tinkerbell in the background and get Disney to DMCA
        Don't like someone's racial background or religion, wait until they fail to stop 10 feet behind an intersection and give them a ticket. Search their car while you are at it
        I commit thousands of crimes a year, and so do you. That isn't a problem with me or you, or even law enforcement. The letter of the law is so screwed up that there is no possible way to root out corruption and discrimination.
    • That sounds more like a passive-aggressive mafia threat than a realistic possibility. "Oh, you better not do that, or else we might have to stop being so lenient with you!" Why would wearing cameras mean that "they have to charge you with something"? Why would the public tolerate a police force that operates on a mentality like that?

      This is exactly why we need cameras. Individual departments and officers are unique, but in general the American public has lost its faith in its police forces, and for damned g

    • I know that doesn't sound like a big deal but cops let thousands of people off per day on minor things where people just need a warning.

      Virtually none of them being young black men, which is the exact problem typifying US LEO since the Jim Crow days.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @03:41PM (#47769105)

      The camera video doesn't mean a constant audit. If a cop pulls you over for speeding and lets you go with a warning, his supervisor isn't going to be viewing that recording. If the cop pulls you over for speeding, drags you out of the car, beats you, and then claims that you pulled a gun on him, the supervisor (and possibly jury too) will view the recording and be able to tell whether the officer was correct in his actions.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:14PM (#47767253)

    Fewer complaints against the cops, complaints get resolved quickly and fairly, fewer cases of cops using violence, they caught one copkiller because the cop he killed had filmed his face.

    It's been good for just about everyone, yet some cops keep resisting. I guess because they no longer get their 3 months paid vacation while complaints get kicked around by the unionistas before being summarily dismissed, replacing that with a day off while the tape is reviewed is a hard sell.

  • by meta-monkey (321000) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:19PM (#47767305) Journal

    For once, a form of government surveillance I can support!

    • by Krishnoid (984597)

      Are we sure about this? In the end, cops are individual people, and they're interacting one-on-one on the ground with people in their own community, most hopefully for the better, some for the worse. This looks like a step towards involuntary ubiquitous surveillance for the individual, civilian cop or regular civilian, while visibility into decisions and actions of larger organizations, those that affect large groups at once, is still hazy or completely unavailable:

      • basic text of US legislation before vot
  • One step further (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:22PM (#47767339)

    It's a good idea, don't get me wrong. It's about time we used this ubiquitous cheap technology in an obviously beneficial way. It's a good move, and one I support.

    But either after this comes about, or as part of the deal, the content of that camera needs to be stored offsite and specifically out of the reach of the police officer. Otherwise we're going to see a lot of data simply go missing at convenient times. To be frank, we can't trust police departments to hold onto evidence that could incriminate themselves.

    And any evidence that an officer tampered with their camera in an effort to suppress incriminating evidence should be dealt with exactly as if they had destroyed evidence. Because that's what it is.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:26PM (#47768209)

      It's a good idea, don't get me wrong. It's about time we used this ubiquitous cheap technology in an obviously beneficial way. It's a good move, and one I support.

      But either after this comes about, or as part of the deal, the content of that camera needs to be stored offsite and specifically out of the reach of the police officer. Otherwise we're going to see a lot of data simply go missing at convenient times. To be frank, we can't trust police departments to hold onto evidence that could incriminate themselves.

      And any evidence that an officer tampered with their camera in an effort to suppress incriminating evidence should be dealt with exactly as if they had destroyed evidence. Because that's what it is.

      Actually this is a real problem... so much so that in departments that have these cameras, many require the officer to write their report before being allowed to view the video. If they can see the video, they often end up crafting their report to fit the video of the incident while the victim/perpetrator doesn't have that advantage.

  • by Old-Claimjumper (463905) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:28PM (#47767429)

    Albuquerque has had problems recently with police shooting a homeless man and their lapel cameras show something that appears to be a real unjustified use of force.

    Now that there is loads of bad press from the released videos, the last couple of "incidents" have been plagued with ummm... Camera Malfunctions! That's it. The cameras just malfunctioned and didn't work. We just don't understand it. Sorry, but we don't have any video of that last shooting...

    A really good idea, but the devil is in the details.

  • Grampian Police [bbc.co.uk] started this a year ago and the police in London [bbc.co.uk] in May.

  • by c0d3g33k (102699) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:42PM (#47767597)

    "And police officers are now at a disadvantage, because someone can tape the last part of an encounter and not tape the first part of the encounter. And it gives the impression that the police officer has overreacted when they haven't."

    Or maybe they have, because they have the legal authority to use force and the citizenry they are sworn to protect and serve do not.

    I find it a very disturbing trend that "ordinary citizens" are now viewed as dangerous and "the enemy" from which the noble police (and other official institutions) must be protected. When I grew up, the general tone was that of Blackstone's Formulation ("It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"). Now it seems to be "It's better that ten innocent persons suffer than that one guilty person escape".

  • by Ogive17 (691899) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:45PM (#47767635)
    Just like everything else in this country, a few bad apples ruin it for the rest of us.

    My dad is a retired cop, very honest guy (though maybe I'm a bit biased). Most of the guys on the force were genuine good guys, of course there was 1 or 2 jackass's that would do stupid shit.

    If a chest cam is going to eliminate the contradictions between the cop and the suspect, so be it. A few thousand people died 13 years ago in a terrorist attack and now the rest of us who want to fly on a commercial aircraft are treated as potential terrorists.
    • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:46PM (#47768443)

      My dad is a retired cop, very honest guy (though maybe I'm a bit biased). Most of the guys on the force were genuine good guys, of course there was 1 or 2 jackass's that would do stupid shit.

      Ask him if these jackasses ever did any stupid shit that he observed. Did he arrest them? Did he report them? Did he let it slide? Did he cover it up?

      If he answers more towards the later, rather than the former, then he wasn't a "genuine good guy". Everyone I've ever talked to with ties to a police department swears that the majority are good apples, and yet the entire police force seems to look after their own when shit hits the fan.

  • by schwit1 (797399) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:47PM (#47767659)

    It's 2014 and nobody uses tape to record. Recorded data should be sent to a remote data store that the defendants, PD and DA have read only access to.

  • For Classrooms Too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Scottingham (2036128) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @01:48PM (#47767685)
    I'd like to see a camera in every public school classroom as well.

    It would end the 'he said/she said' arguments when a kid is being disruptive and the parent refuses to believe their snowflake is anything other than perfect.

    It could also allow for a better means of evaluating a teacher's performance. Currently it is done with in person audits by an administrator...teachers behave quite differently under that situation.
    • by Mantrid42 (972953) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @06:47PM (#47770617)
      That's... not really the same. Average people should not be under surveillance at all times. Cops are different. They're special; they're tasked with upholding the law and keeping the peace. They have more power than an average person, so they need to be under more scrutiny than the average person.
  • by quietwalker (969769) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:03PM (#47767895)

    I'll be happier when I see cameras on the politicians. It'd be interesting to know what they agree to do in private lunch meetings with corporate CEOs and billionaire bankers. Criminally interesting, I suspect.

    • by Tokolosh (1256448)

      Every person whose salary I paid by the taxpayers must wear a camera while on duty, which shall stream in real-time to a publically-accessible internet site.

  • anacdotal evidence (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:22PM (#47768143)

    Just a few years ago, I got pulled over for honking my horn at someone that was about to hit me. I don't think the cop saw the other car... but whatever. When he walked up to the car he yelled "Something wrong with your horn??!?!" to which I replied "Nope, I just tested it and it worked just fine." his reply was to draw his gun on me. I'm white, was 35 at the time, ware business casual and a business haircut.

    This isn't a race issue, it's a cop issue. I've had numerous run-ins with the police like this that more or less boil down to me having a smart mouth and not "respecting their authority" because, quite frankly, I don't. I shouldn't be afraid every time I get pulled over, but I am. That's not right.

    My son is adopted, and African American, and you're damned sure he's getting the talk when he's old enough. The police are not your friends, they are not here to help. They can legally murder you where you stand and get away with it on a routine basis. I would not say that the majority of them are "Good guys" and this is just a few bad eggs. I think the position attracts certain kinds of people that have ego problems and use the job to exert a psychological need to control others. The screening process and training they receive needs to change radically. I've never had a positive encounter with a police officer. Even when my home got broken into they used the opportunity to search my belonging because it was a "crime scene" That sort of behavior engenders distrust and leads to less crime being reported.

  • Crap hardware (Score:4, Informative)

    by GrBear (63712) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:30PM (#47768257)

    As someone in the business of selling law enforcement equipment, I'll tell you right now, most of the body cams available for law enforcement are compete and utter crap.

    Not only that, they don't have an effective back office solution to manage all that video. Sure you can dump the video onto a hard drive, but it needs to be indexed somehow so it can be searched for later by officer name, date, etc.

    A few companies are trying to make body worn cameras that don't look like blair witch recordings, but at this point, there's still at least a year away before anything usable arrives.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @03:07PM (#47768713)

    Separation of powers happened because the founding fathers understood that no single concentrated power could be trusted. Universal surveillance of all government officials would simply be an extension of this principal.

    The founding fathers would approve filming government at ALL levels, from congress to notary. Multiple cameras (in the case of cops, dash-cam and chest-cam), streaming to web, with read-only access and multiple, physically separated backups.

    There is no *technical* reason this can't be done, and frankly, it's a good idea. Think how much crap congress and K-Street wouldn't have gotten away with, had this been in place.

  • by TheMiddleRoad (1153113) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @03:30PM (#47768991)

    I took a citizens class at the local PD. They said an officer had received many complaints against him. In response, the chief required that he have his radio broadcasting audio during every single interaction he had with the public. The complaints ceased.

    This is an awesome idea. Not original at all, of course. I fully support it.

  • by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @11:13PM (#47771905)
    Not only should cops and squad cars be mandated to have extensive cams working at all times we need exactly the same thing in our jails and prisons. Abuse by guards as well as inmates should be made impossible. And we need voice as well as video. No cop should ever be able to blackmail an inmate or make deals with inmates under any conditions. And inmates should find it vastly difficult to conspire with other inmates. The days when a guard could force a prisoner to have sex or sell drugs within the prison or be rewarded for being an enforcer for the guards needs to come to a total end. Secrets are evil in and of themselves and secrets perpetuate crime as well. To enable the Truth to set us free we need to turn on very bright search lights.

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