Police Abuse

St. Louis Cops Worry That In-Car Cameras 'Are Being Used Against Them'

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Last year the St. Louis Police Department began using cameras mounted in patrol cars to record officers'encounters with suspects and other aspects of their on-the-job behavior. Such dash cameras, which have been used in this country for 15 years or so, can help cops as well as the people they arrest by backing up details of police reports, providing evidence of crimes such as driving while intoxicated, and disproving false complaints of misconduct. But some cops see only the downside. Citing union grievances, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that "city police officers believe in-car cameras are being used against them, and they are trying to find ways to avoid driving cars equipped with them." About half the city's police cars have cameras so far. Capt. Mary Edwards-Fears responded to the problem posed by camera-shy cops in an April 13 memo to supervisors:

We are missing critical evidence for our cases when we allow [officers] to avoid using vehicles with cameras in them, for fear of being caught in a compromising position. Your job as managers in the business is to assist your officers in following the rules and regulations, not assisting them in circumventing them.

The Post-Dispatch describes a few incidents that have contributed to officers' leeriness of dash cams:

Two probationary officers [were] investigated after a woman said they planted guns and drugs on her 16-year-old son. Video exonerated them of that claim but revealed that one struck the handcuffed teen, which led to the firing of both….

In-car cameras caught Officer Jason Stockley brandishing a personally owned rifle at a drug suspect, who was later shot and killed by police Dec. 20. The department does not allow officers to carry personally owned rifles and still is investigating the matter internally.

Officer David Wilson was seen striking a handcuffed teenage suspect in January. He was criminally charged with assault in April, and an internal investigation is under way.

What's the world coming to when cops can no longer punch handcuffed prisoners or violate firearm rules with impunity? The local police union wants restrictions on supervisors' authority to review camera footage, so officers will be have a clearer sense of when they're being watched. Police Chief Dan Isom replies that "I'm not going to draft a policy for those who violate our policy," saying  the cameras help "make sure people are following the protocol of the police department." That seems about right to me, although I might have put it this way: If cops are not doing anything wrong, they have nothing to fear. 

More on cops and cameras here.

[Thanks to Mark Sletten for the tip.]

Addendum: Whoops. Ed Krayewski beat me to it.

NEXT: Sen. Alan Simpson Kindly Provides Example of Those Thank You Letters He Went on About

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  1. Two probationary officers [were] investigated after a woman said they planted guns and drugs on her 16-year-old son. Video exonerated them of that claim but revealed that one struck the handcuffed teen, which led to the firing of both.

    I’m gonna go ahead and cheer for the silver lining. At least the two cops were fired.

    1. At least the cameras in both the officers’ cruisers didn’t simultaneously malfunction for the traffic stop in this case. I mean, those things happen – I heard of cases where seven cameras all malfunctioned at the same time. Also lucky their system didn’t delete it – since it is standard policy to delete videos x days before you request them…

  2. What’s that saying about the innocent and having nothing to hide? Help me out here, officers.

    1. That only applies to us little people.

    2. I’m drawing a blank; in fact, you could say I’m a bit fuzzy here.

    3. I murdered that guy, and I fear that the DNA and fingerprints I left at the scene might be used against me.

    4. the sad reality is that the corrupt minority on any force poisons the well for the rest. And when cops who may be decent fail to speak out in favor of policing (pun intended) their own profession, the brush strokes can a bit broader.

      1. the sad reality is that the corrupt minority majority on any force poisons the well for the rest.

        Fixed it for you.

        1. I don’t think the majority is corrupt. There are the bad apples, to be sure, and there is the union that forces the decent folks into silence. No cop wants to be that guy.

          1. there is no way you can KNOW from talking to a guy, etc. if they are a ‘good guy’.

            i am simply speaking from empirical evidence. again, it was once i started working as a cop (i started out part time w/o a big commitment), i realized that many of my preconceptions were wrong, and that on the whole the VAST majority of cops do a quite honorable job the vast majority of the time.

            the idea that the union forces people into silence is so laughably absurd, i don’t know where to begin.

            i’ve been to way too many union meetings to believe that crap.

            the union’s job is to protect ALL officer’s rights. i have given numerous examples where once an officer has been shown to be dirty, the union distances themself and does not reflexively defend them, however… UNIONS are an advocacy group… they aren’t supposed to be fair, balanced, or looking out for the public good.

            1. All the more reason why government employees should not be allowed to join unions, vote, or have firearms when they are not on the clock.

            2. That’s a huge crock of shit.

              If somebody joins a Rape Squad I’m going to be pretty safe in assuming without talking to him that he likes rape. If somebody joins up as a cop (it’s not like they’re being conscripted) they have to go along with the drug war, assets forfeiture, etc., or get fired–and around here even the smallest quantity of marijuana is a felony and people do get busted for it.

              If immoral acts are part of your job description and you won’t be allowed to continue your job without doing them, you’re not a moral man. That’s just evil you’re self-justifying because cops seem to think they have a divinely-granted right to always and forever be police officers.

          2. Not being “that guy” means that you are corrupt by default.

  3. The local police union wants restrictions on supervisors’ authority to review camera footage, so officers will be have a clearer sense of when they’re being watched.

    How about always. When you’re on the job, always assume you’re being watched.

    This isn’t a job in an office where they’re watching to make sure staffers aren’t stealing paper clips. You are law enforcement officers with the power to lawfully injure and lawfully take life as part of your employment, and the power of heavily weighted court testimony. Fuck your grievances. If you lack impulse control, find other employment.

    1. It is a dangerous and necessary thing police do. The position should require honour and bestow it, all sworn to uphold it.

      Corny, but few people could really, actually do it. Maybe Asimov’s robots.

      1. none can do it perfectly. but scores of thousands do it with honor every day of the year

        1. I want to believe you, Dunphy, but stories like this plus the various cases of outright crime by cops dishonor the ones who serve as the public expects them to. Once again, a case for how unions do NOT serve those of us paying the members’ salaries.

          1. I don’t disagree with him. However, this is a job with a smaller margin for error than most. There must be the lowest possible tolerance for misjudgement or bad behavior.

            In my experience, of the LEO I’ve talked to, the ones who come across as most honorable are the ones who see it as a job and not as a calling. They tend to not take things personally and do not get ramped up at every interaction with the public that isn’t going their way. Much more professional.

            1. I’ve known some good guys, professionals who treated the job as such. Then you see the morons in action and, what’s worse, the brass’ refusal to get rid of the rot and it does not make one want to contribute to the FOP.

              1. what’s worse, the brass’ refusal to get rid of the rot

                ^This

                The continued estimation of “bad apple” percentages is simply a distraction. The real and only problem is the institutional response of circling the wagons, destroying and/or suppressing evidence, and almost uniform denial of misbehavior by those tasked with managing these sets of apples.

                Time and again we see this bunker mentality of LE Bureaucracy vs. the public interest. If the management atmosphere encouraged actual self-policing rather than ass protection and political perimeter defense, then these stories of abuse would be far less common.

                1. generally speaking, at least in agencies i have worked for, it is NOT the brass’ lack of desire to get rid of cops

                  in fact, it’s the opposite.

                  i realize people here don’t study the facts, but with most agencies of any size, the chief has NO POWER to remove an officer without due process, and there is also the issue of arbitration.

                  i love the way the people here actually think that the LE bureaucracy kneejerks towards the street cops against the public interest.

                  that is LAUGHABLE

                  police chiefs are appointed cop-o-crats and they will point towards firing ANYBODY if they think it will help their career.

                  that’s why we have due process, civil service, arbitration, etc. because we are naturally put in a position where we suffer the slings and arrows of demigogues like al sharpton’s etc. and that our admin is only too WILLING to jump on board with such ignoramuses before the facts come out

                  1. i love the way the people here actually think that the LE bureaucracy kneejerks towards the street cops against the public interest.

                    Can’t speak for others, but I don’t.

                    The LE bureaucracy kneejerks towards unaccountability and job and turf protection, and that just happens to coincide with exercising absolute control over the examination of facts regarding officer behavior.

                    police chiefs are appointed cop-o-crats and they will point towards firing ANYBODY if they think it will help their career.

                    You’re starting to get it. They will also point towards keeping a lid on any embarrassing evidence if they think it will help their career.

                    Remember, a judgement against the cops, regardless of an eventual firing, conviction or not, looks like managerial incompetence (See: Fullerton/Kelly Thomas), and that reflects poorly on the careers of the LE bureaucrats who put that cop in a position of authority in the first place.

                  2. “due process, civil service, arbitration” are all things that no government employee should have, especially cops.

        2. What happened to your “cops like cameras” argument? St Louis cops apparently dont.

        3. What happened to your “cops like cameras” argument? St Louis cops apparently dont.

        4. scores of thousands do it with honor every day of the year

          Oh man, it’s over 4 hours later and I’m still laughing.

          You wouldn’t know honor if you tased it in the back of a squad car.

  4. Ms. Elizabeth Moon provides the solution below in the post A Skin Deep Big Brother Proposal: everyone who wants to be a cop has to have a camera implanted in their forehead, call it the Kali Cam which looks for all intents and purposes like a bindi, yet records everything the cop sees and does. And yes, unfortunately, it has to stay on all the time, just in case the officers are involved in an off-duty incident. No I’m not kidding.

    1. That would be the worst POV for court purposes. It would be full of suspects’ titties (possibly crotch). While amusing, it would be of little help in court.

      1. Ha! ^This

  5. “We are missing critical evidence for our cases when we allow [officers] to avoid using vehicles with cameras in them, for fear of being caught in a compromising position.”

    If I were the journalist listening to such excuse, I would’ve found oil just by the drop of my jaw.

    However, I am willing to bet the supine media didn’t even flinch.

    1. That’s one of those things you’d ask them to repeat and clarify several times, if you were a real journalist. Because the self-hanging opportunity is just sitting there.

  6. What’s the world coming to when cops can no longer punch handcuffed prisoners or violate firearm rules with impunity?

    It’s utter chaos, Jacob! Imagine the very fabric of society unraveling! People needing eye drops because they stopped blinking! All those donuts going to waste! Major economic depression because of overproduction(*)!

    (*) That one was seriously forwarded by a Marxian Mexican cartoonist as the reason for the depression of 1873, by the way.

  7. Isn’t St. Louis supposed to be becoming a much better city? Does that include its police department, I wonder?

  8. Won’t someone think of the police?!

    1. people do. and as the polling data overwhelmingly proves, the vast majority of people think very positively about them

      1. Because the vast majority of people don’t interact with them. Once they do, their opinions change.

  9. Capt. Mary Edwards-Fears

    I got nuthin.

    “I’m not going to draft a policy for those who violate our policy,”

    Well, yeah, why bother, they’re just going to violate the new policy too.

  10. Given the examples given by the police union as reasons for their complaint, I have to conclude that the sum of their argument is;

    “We dont want cameras recording us when we commit felonies”

    1. “We dont want cameras recording us when we commit felonies”

      Join the crowd.

      1. actually, it has more to do with fishing expeditions

        for example, when our agency installed GPS into our cruisers they made an agreement with the union that they would use that data for safety, staffing, dispatch purposes, response to complaints, etc. but would NOT use it to “fish”. for example, many agencies have a policy against congregating (more than X officers at a lunch place at one time). IA cannot use GPS data to FISH to find out if officers are congregating during lunch, for example

        however, GIVEN a complaint, they could use the GPS data.

        and of course that’s a petty admin violation, not CRIMINAL stuff

        1. ah, the union and its endless devotion to making sure members do their jobs to the best level possible. Interesting how the union’s biggest concern is that someone might go fishing because all agencies and employees who do their jobs the right way fear surveillance…(sarc)

          I get that you want to defend your profession, but it is worth asking: why would the union fear fishing if it did not expect expeditions to yield embarrassing findings?

          1. the point is just like any other privacy issue. look, i used to work for an agency where IA detectives put a video camera in THE LOCKER room to try to catch people stealing (men’s locker room of course).

            the issue with the fishing is that many officers feel that if they are going to have GPS monitoring them every second of the shift, including meal time, that the GPS data not be used to fish for petty admin stuff (like congregating at lunch) because they know damn well that if and when the cop-o-crats target one of them for speaking out against the admin, or making unpopular political statements, or whatever… that they not be prone to have some bean counting headhunter look through GPS data to SEARCH for petty violations

            i think that’s reasonable. as did our admin and our union

            1. that if and when the cop-o-crats target one of them for speaking out against the admin, or making unpopular political statements, or whatever…

              Interesting. Again the problem seems to be bureaucratic avoidance of accountability. The very thing that might also lead to the inability of the “good” apples policing the “bad” apples, because that might “embarrass” the LE administration.

              This isn’t about good or bad cops, it’s about the unaccountability of Law Enforcement Bureaucrats.

              1. “Again the problem seems to be bureaucratic avoidance of accountability.”

                There’s also something else that’s interesting. Who’s more likely to be at the butt end of a fishing expedition: a corrupt cop or a Serpico?

            2. “the point is just like any other privacy issue”

              Any time that a police officer interacts with a member of the public, particularly when that interaction is involuntary on the part of the member of the public, there should be no consideration of privacy for the officer. Permitting police to wield the coercive authority of the state in private is an engraved invitation to corruption

  11. It is, and they’re not doing a very good job of masking that fact, either. It’s like they don’t give too much a shit about appearances anymore.

    The job is far too hard to perform with accountability looming over them. They must be free of responsibility. Am I right, St. Louis PD?

    1. Response to Suthenboy’s latest comment. Squirrels will pay!

  12. Whatever happened to dunphy? I have not seen him on any of these “Police Gone Wild” threads for quite a while.

    1. on duty vehicle collision. surgeries, etc. i mentioned this in another post.

      i made a few posts under the influence of painkillers, but they sounded too much like sloopy when i was jacked up

      apparently, you start tweaking the mu receptors, and logic goes out the window 🙂

      1. Tx and ye shall rx.

        Happy to have you back!

      2. Shit, so close to you finally dying in a fire…so close. Suffer well bitch!

  13. The local police union wants restrictions on supervisors’ authority to review camera footage, so officers will be have a clearer sense of when they’re being watched.
    How about when you report in for work to when you report out? Is that clear enough?

    Anyway, I thought most cameras were turned on automatically with the light rack.

  14. bad-ass!!!

    offduty cop fights off burglars of his residenceas fight spills on to his front lawn.

    good example of video helping the good guys

    and good example of a cop with some very good groundfighting skillz

    at one point he’s fighting multiples.

    just bad… ass!

    http://www.policeone.com/off-d…..m-on-lawn/

    1. Except he is not a cop, he is a C.O. Unlike you pigs the only people they interact with are actual felons. Their Us v. Them mentality is appropriate. And did you see the comments section there? Those fucking pig commentators think we should get rid of all the wasted sperm. Of course that would be them, and you, and the assorted progeny.

  15. We could certainly use a man like Calvin Coolidge again. He knew how to put Police Union thugs in their place.

  16. These PUNK cops really got balls! If they would do their jobs and stay WITHIN the law, there would be no worries!

    http://www.Privacy-Geeks.tk

  17. Damn, I wish I’d said this earlier: If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear!

  18. Why do LEOs love filming you, and hate being filmed themselves?

    Simply visit this website….daily….and you’ll soon learn why:

    http://www.policemisconduct.net/

    Most folks have no idea how many many bad cops are out there.

    Hell, most of us would do well in these times to have our own in-car cameras.

  19. Is it a search? Sure.

    Should it therefore be available through a warrant, or, when reasonable?

    Makes legal sense to me.

    Cops have 4th Amendment rights, too.

  20. Well if the cops aren’t doing anything wrong, why should they worry about cameras being used against them?
    I mean, if they’re following procedure…and not doing anything illegal, they have nothing to worry about.

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