Ex Cop: Everyone Behaves Better When They’re on Video

Civilians shoot and upload police encounters to the Internet everyday using tiny cameras on their cell phones and other mobile devices. In fact it may be easier than ever to keep the police accountable with the technology we all carry around in our pockets. But police are looking to keep civilians accountable too by wearing cameras of their own. Reason TV sat down with former Seattle Police officer Steve Ward, who left the force to start Vievu, a company that makes body cameras for police officers.

“Everyone behaves better when they’re on video,” says Ward. “I realized that dash cams only capture about five percent of what a cop does. And I wanted to catch 100 percent of what a cop does.”

The cameras are small, light, and clip to the clothing of a police officer’s uniform. They turn on with a large switch on the front of the camera and have a green circle that surrounds the lens so that civilians know that the camera is recording.

But once the data is recorded, what stops an officer from editing or manipulating the video? Ward says his cameras contain software that stops officers from doing anything nefarious with it, “Our software platform stops officers from altering, deleting, copying, editing, uploading to YouTube, any of the videos that the cops take.”

While body cameras present the strong benefit of keeping police accountable, they also present a risk of invading civilians’ privacy. But in a policy brief from October 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that depending on how the body cameras were implemented, the privacy concerns could be dealt with.

Although we generally take a dim view of the proliferation of surveillance cameras in American life, police on-body cameras are different because of their potential to serve as a check against the abuse of power by police officers. Historically, there was no documentary evidence of most encounters between police officers and the public, and due to the volatile nature of those encounters, this often resulted in radically divergent accounts of incidents. Cameras have the potential to be a win-win, helping protect the public against police misconduct, and at the same time helping protect police against false accusations of abuse.

In 2013, The New York Times reported that the city of Rialto, Calif., was able to cut down on complaints against officers by 88 percent over the previous year when it gave its officers body cameras.  Use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent.

Approximately 5:42.

Produced by Paul Detrick. Edited by Detrick and William Neff. Shot by Alex Manning.

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  • Dave Krueger||

    But the cops don't have to turn them on for every encounter, right? And what keeps the cops from turning them off once they've decided to beat the shit outa someone?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Well, I would hope that the thought of a lawyer asking them, in court, "Well, if your account is true, and you didn't hit this man fifty seven times with a pair of ice skates, why didn't you turn your camera on?" would give them pause...

  • ||

    The PINAC article I posted above says otherwise. Here it is again.

  • Pavlov's Cat||

    You get the idea somebody never watched a "reality" TV show?

  • sarcasmic||

    People behave better when there are consequences for their actions.

    The cops who beat Kelly Thomas to death knew they were on camera, and they didn't care. Why? Because they knew there would be no consequences for their actions.

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    Wait you mean you get more of what you reward and less of what you punish? Why haven't I heard of this concept before?

  • ||

    What they did to that guy.

    I mean.

    The only justice will be if society shuns the men who committed that crime.

    Like OJ. At some point, you have to answer to the people.

  • woodNfish||

    Cops like that are why when I hear that a cop has been shot I think the cop probably deserved it.

  • wwhorton||

    Frankly, and I say this as the son of a retired deputy, most cops these days are just scared enough to be dangerous.

    Note that you don't hear very much about police killing heavily-armed paramilitary soldiers following six-hour firefights; it's three patrolmen vs. one disoriented homeless guy who isn't resisting in the first place. They fear the public in the same way that farmers "fear" livestock; they're wary of a nip, but they don't respect the hogs.

    At the risk of putting myself on yet another watchlist, this won't change until police are really, truly afraid of the public. Not of individual targets, but of people in general.

    How different would the Kelly Thomas event have turned out if two weeks prior a crowd of onlookers had dragged police off of a suspect they were beating and pummeled the hell out of them? What if the SWAT team conducting the raid on the mayor of Berwyn Heights was confronted by a few neighbors with shotguns? And at the risk of sounding like I'm advocating something I'm not, what if the next time a cop shoots a dog in someone's front yard the owner returns fire, kills the cop, and is acquitted?

    Police won't respect non-police until the public in general loses its fear of the police.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Oh, my God. I think I love you.

  • Riven||

    Get in line.

  • Pavlov's Cat||

    Yeah, after reading that I have a nice surprise ready for Mrs. Pavlov.

  • VicRattlehead||

    one step further we all need to get over our abnormal fear of death and pain
    step one. accept that someday you will die and there's not a fucking thing you can do about it
    step two. accept that physical pain although uncomfortable at first is not nearly as long as a life of suffering under the heel of tyrants

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

  • ||

  • woodNfish||

    And what will keep the police review boards and police union thugs from abusing the rights of citizens with their almost 100% rubber-stamping of cop abuse as "justified police procedure"?

    Cops almost never pay for their crimes, and they commit a lot of crimes.

  • RustyHashbrown||

    "...the city of Rialto, Calif., was able to cut down on complaints against officers by 88 percent over the previous year when it gave its officers body cameras. Use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent."

    It makes you wonder how much shit went on when it was just an LEO's word against a citizens, even when "procedures were followed".

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    I think that the numbers speak for themselves. Obviously, about 60% of the uses of force were unjustified, at least in the eyes of the cops that stopped using the force when they knew that they would be witnessed.

  • anglinajuliee199||

    my roomate's sister makes $64 hourly on the laptop . She has been without work for six months but last month her payment was $21522 just working on the laptop for a few hours. original site.......

  • RustyHashbrown||

    I know your roommate's sister. She lost all her money in a pyramid scheme, and now she has to turn tricks to pay the rent.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I figured that, assuming the claim of $64/hr was true, it probably involved a webcam and a donkey.

  • VicRattlehead||

    the donkey was sick so we had to use the full size horse instead
    same diff right?

  • VicRattlehead||

    the donkey was sick so we had to use the full size horse instead
    same diff right?

  • Pavlov's Cat||

    a webcam and a donkey.

    Live, from beautiful downtown Tijuana!
    Our World-Famous Donkey Show!
    Free popcorn!

    I remember when I drove a few buddies to Tijuana to see that show. Nobody could swallow the popcorn. We all left long before the (three hour!) show was over.

  • AlgerHiss||

    Small steps can sometimes help. Such as the language we use to describe some of these people.

    For instance, this idiotic use of the term “agent” such as “FBI agent” or the even more ridiculous “special agent”. These people are not independent contractors or self employed such as your local State Farm agent. They are simply employees….government employees. So….call them that and drop this silly-assed, ego-boosting “agent” nonsense.

    Even police “officer”. They are not elected CEOs, CFOs or any other of the legitimate uses of “officer”. They are government employees. Period.

    Blowing smoke up their bums with phony, silly monikers only makes things worse.

  • Consult Hardesty||

    Tying body-mounted cameras to facial recognition software will be a boon to the surveillance state. License plate readers pale in comparison. Without probable cause, officers will scan faces they pass: criminality will be but one report from databases. While you're in conversation with an officer, he'll hear in his earpiece suggested interrogation techniques, known associates and other predictors of suspicion. BTW: in the 'success' part of this puff piece, an officer hovers with a 'less-often lethal' shotgun: he is far closer to the suspect than the weapon is designed for. Do you think police training officers took action as a result? For improvements in police conduct, better results can be obtained through Know Your Rights training in communities that encourage civilian photography of police.
    For more on high-tech Seattle PD, follow the link:

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