When I last spoke with Jim Pasco, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, he said he objected to allowing citizens to videotape police because police officers have a right to privacy while on the job and because he feared video could be edited and manipulated to make cops look bad. "Police officers don't check their civil rights at the station house door," he said. He also implied that cops lying on the witness stand is as rare as DNA tests implicating the wrong person.
"The proliferation of cheap video equipment is presenting a whole new dynamic for law enforcement," says Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest police union. "It has had a chilling effect on some officers who are now afraid to act for fear of retribution by video. This has become a serious safety issue. I'm afraid something terrible will happen."
Over the last year I've received email and heard from a number of police officers on radio call-in shows who've said that citizen-shot video vindicated them in cases where they had been accused of misconduct. If video has been edited or manipulated, that's pretty easy to discern should it become a key piece of evidence against a police officer.
We want cops second-guessing decisions that are second-guessable. If an abundance of video cameras helps that to happen, all the better.
But there's no reason citizen video should make a good cop think twice before using appropriate force to apprehend someone who presents a threat to others. As noted above, he should welcome it, in case the suspect later claims the force was unwarranted. The problem is that when the head of the country's largest police union says he fears video will make cops hesitate before using legitimate force—just after saying video can be manipulated to make good cops look bad—he's really encouraging hesitation in these situations.
I don't know if Pasco's new line of attack will be more successful than his "cops have privacy rights" position. But it strikes me as irresponsible, and likely to encourage the very thing Pasco says he fears.