Police departments across the country are being pressured into having officers wear body cameras as a means of making their actions more ‘transparent’. With the advent of Smart Phone technology the general public has a means of recording events, millions of ‘independent journalists’ available at a moments notice to capture an ongoing event or stage an incident worthy of the Six O’clock News.
Images gathered by Smart Phone cameras have shown police officers…; perhaps this would be a good time to use the word ‘allegedly’…, police officers have allegedly been shown using excessive force, violating an arrested suspect’s rights or using deadly force when such force did not appear justified. These short videos become instant fodder for a more than willing news media intent on destroying the public’s confidence in their local police department’s ability to uphold the law fairly and without prejudice.
After a day or two of bombarding the public with the same images, a short ‘trial by media’ followed by a knee jerk reaction from elected and appointed officials finds the offending officer guilty, often times destroying a promising career in law enforcement or even placing the officer’s family in grave danger as death threats surface from the more radical sections of society.
Not that it matters much; but a week or so later more images are made public, images taken by other citizens on their Smart Phones which tend to support the police officer’s explanation of what really happened; not a biased version which only showed what some cop hating malcontent thought would further advance his/her agenda.
That brings us to the so called grassroots movement to have all police officers wear body cameras.
In an article appearing on the internet at Conservative Tribune:
“In Washington, the Justice Department is publicly telling the local police departments that by adopting body cameras, they will be improving transparency and trust between citizens and officers. However, behind closed doors … it is a completely different story.
Well, the federal government has yet to adopt guidelines on how and when to use such cameras. These rules would be an important factor in determining how any footage obtained could be used in court, released publicly, or stored by law enforcement agencies.”
The Federal government is demanding local police departments implement a wide sweeping program which has yet to be thought out regarding legal issues which would affect the courts, the release of sensitive information publicly, the storage of vast amounts of information and this doesn’t even mention the cost of such programs to taxpayers or municipalities already operating beyond fiscally sound measures.
I’ve no idea how other cities are addressing the issue of police officer body camera policy; but here in Houston they’ve opened a can of worms worth investigating.
According to Ray Hunt, President of the Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU), in the November issue of Badge & Gun there are several issues, foremost on that list would be that the officers who would be wearing body cameras were not part of the input process when generating policies which would greatly affect their lives on a daily basis.
“As for the body camera policy, the HPOU nor our representative had ANY input in the policy and we have major concerns with several sections of the policy.”
The article goes on to point out the secretive process by which the City of Houston decided which camera vendor company to use, making it clear to members of the Houston Police Department that they could not meet with ANY vendors offering body camera equipment/services or those companies would automatically be deleted from the bidding process. Then, upon reading the requirements it appeared as if only one company matched those requirements. The term ‘Brother in Law Deal’ comes to mind; but isn’t that how big government rewards those who previously showed monetary support during the election process? (Cronyism?)
“It was clear that the policy was written for a specific camera, even though the Public Safety Committee was advised no selection had been made. The draft policy states that the cameras will protect the constitutional rights of citizens, but mentions nothing about protecting the officers, who our chief has said are the most important part of the organization.
The draft policy requires an officer within seconds of clearing a call to categorize each recording as evidence, non-evidence or traffic stop. We can only imagine the discipline that will come from this when an officer makes a mistake or fails to make a choice. The policy does not provide for officers to immediately view the video from the vehicle and will require officers to drive to the station and get a supervisor to assist in downloading the video.”
Never mind protecting police officer’s rights; these new body camera policies were designed to catch corrupt cops who don’t deserve constitutional protections. Constitutional protection is reserved for alleged criminals like the ones rotten cops are persecuting needlessly with extreme prejudice. Did I capture the perspective of those members of our society who have no respect for police?
Sorry, Folks; but from the arm chair of this retired police officer, the implementation of policies which place body cameras on police officers but fail to address legal admission of information obtained by these devices, fail to address internal policies intended to protect the public as well as police officers using these recording devices, fail to address reasonable questions as to how massive amounts of taxpayer money is to be spent while the stench of Cronyism hangs over the procurement process…No, this change in police public relations needs to be addressed before the City can claim it’s acting in Everyone’s best interests.
The Moral Liberal’s Senior Editor, T.F. Stern, is a retired City of Houston police officer, self-employed locksmith, and gifted political and social commentator. His popular and insightful blog, T.F. Sterns Rantings, has been up and at it since January of 2005.