The April 2014 Reason-Rupe poll found that half of Americans think law enforcement officers are not held accountable for misconduct. That number rises to 64 percent for Hispanics and 66 percent for African Americans.
Do you think police officers are generally held accountable for misconduct, or not?
• Yes: 46 percent
• No: 50 percent
• Don't know: 4 percent
Police misconduct is reviewed through internal affairs investigations, a process that has officers investigating other officers. In February 2013, Los Angeles Police Department officer Sunil Dutta wrote in the Washington Post about his time working as an internal affairs investigator. Dutta criticized the process, saying that it didn't help a community's perception of the police and didn't help officers either:
[When] I interviewed community members who had filed complaints against officers, I was disappointed to learn that, despite my reassurances and best efforts to conduct impartial inquiries, many complainants believed that a fair investigation was simply not possible. Nor do misconduct investigations satisfy a skeptical public. If an officer is exonerated, the community often believes that malfeasance is being covered up.
Police serve the community—any concerns about their integrity must be transparently, expeditiously and judiciously resolved. Relying on cops to police cops is neither efficient nor confidence-inspiring.
Dutta argued that video may be one way to change the perception of police departments.
There's just no excuse for not recording police contacts with the public. Technology has made cameras effective and affordable. Some officers already record their arrests to protect themselves against false allegations of misconduct. This should be standard operating procedure.
Reason TV recently spoke with former Seattle police officer Steve Ward about his company Vievu, which makes body cameras for the police: