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Crime Government Technology

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

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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  • by jerpyro ( 926071 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:12PM (#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 meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:19PM (#47767305) Journal

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:20PM (#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 NoImNotNineVolt ( 832851 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:39PM (#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.

  • For Classrooms Too (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Scottingham ( 2036128 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @02:48PM (#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.
  • anacdotal evidence (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @03:22PM (#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.

  • by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @03:46PM (#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 perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @03:52PM (#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, Interesting)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @04:20PM (#47768875)

    it will put the case back into a he said/she said context, against the word of a cop... pretty much what we have now

    No. It is not at all what we have now. Without a camera, it is my word against the cop. With a camera, it is my word against a cop that is claiming he "lost" critical exculpatory evidence. That is a huge difference, because in the second case the cop will have far less credibility. I have served on juries several times, although only once where the credibility of the cop was an issue. The jurors did NOT just assume he was telling the truth. Instead, we discussed his possible motivations for lying and distorting the evidence. In the end, we chose to believe him, because we didn't see any reason for him to lie, and his testimony was corroborated by other evidence. Juries tend to be made up of minorities, and economically disadvantaged people, that don't have the motivation or ability to weasel out of it. These are the people least likely to believe cops. If the cop says the camera malfunctioned, the defendant is going to walk.

  • Re:I like... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @04:50PM (#47769189)

    Being able to prove that he was or was not lying would stop the riots.

    Probably not, because when people riot they aren't looking for or likely to believe evidence.
    Cops would have to release the entire video to the media, and the lawyers wouldn't let that happen.
    The lawyers would still fuck this up.

  • Re:I like... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jarik C-Bol ( 894741 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @05:15PM (#47769431)
    Ok, stop being a dipshit and look some stuff up. here's a good starting point:
    http://www.thewire.com/nationa... [thewire.com]

    If you're to lazy to read that, here's the condensed version: Most available "Body Cams" for cops use a system where the cop turns the camera on when responding to a call/situation via a double click on a single button on the device. (exactly when the cop is required to turn on the device is decided by department regulations) They can stop recording via the same input. The devices have no controls to erase data, and it is stored until the unit returns to base, at which time it uploads to a secure server run by the manufacturer of the device, which is essentially a digital evidence vault. In the vault, it can only be accessed by verified administrators, usually police chiefs. Now, you may say "well the cop can just turn off the recorder if they want to do something bad." Sure, and at that point, they would be violating department regulations, and subject the case to a lot MORE scrutiny. The online system logs who and when anyone accesses the video in the vault, and wether or not it is copied out of the vault. The point is, the infrastructure is already in place, with hardware available through at least 3 different companies, with extremely well thought out safeguards against the exact sort of asshattery everyone here is claiming will go on if cops are required to use body cams.

    No mater what, going from a "this story versus that story" to "two stories, and some video" is an great step towards fair treatment and accurately administered justice.
  • by clarkkent09 ( 1104833 ) on Wednesday August 27, 2014 @08:21PM (#47770835)

    Ok, so here are some counter arguments to cop cameras:

    1) Officer discretion is gone. Jay walking? Have a tiny amount of pot? Prosecute everything since it's on camera and cop might conceivably get into trouble if he lets it go.

    2) Potential for privacy invasion. The cameras don't just record the cops actions, they record everything in their line of sight. 800,000 cops in the US = 800,000 cameras on the street and inside people's houses with data stored on government servers.

    3) Slippery slope. If you can put camera on cops, why not put them on other government employees? How about post office workers - mail theft is a serious crime. How about private sector employees.

    4) More criminals let out on a technicality. This footage is a gift to the Saul Goodman type lawyers who can now pore over every single thing an officer does or says.

    5) Cops are people too. How would you like wearing a camera on your job? Would you behave differently? Idk, I think this has subtle implications on good officer retention and also performance as they avoid every even smallest risk in everything they do.

    This is more or less off the top of my head. There are probably many more. I'm not even saying we shouldn't do it, but it's ridiculous to say this is obviously a good idea, no discussion necessary.

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