Michael Brown Shooting

To Avoid More Fergusons, Make Cops Wear Cameras


I've got a column up at Time.com that spells out the best policy to minimize incidents like the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri at the hands of the police:

Each of these incidents has an unmistakable racial dimension—all of the victims were black and all or most of arresting officers were white–that threatens the always tense relationships between law enforcement and African Americans. As important, the circumstances of each death are hotly contested, with the police telling one story and witnesses (if any) offering up very different narratives.

Brown's death in particular is raising major ongoing protestsprecisely because, contrary to police accounts, witnesses claim that he had his hands up in the air in surrender when he was shot. The result is less trust in police, a situation that raises tensions across the board.

While there is no simple fix to race relations in any part of American life, there is an obvious way to reduce violent law enforcement confrontations while also building trust in cops: Police should be required to use wearable cameras and record their interactions with citizens. These cameras—various models are already on the market—are small and unobtrusive and include safeguards against subsequent manipulation of any recordings.

Read the whole piece here.

As Reason's Ronald Bailey pointed out last year, "Watched cops are polite cops." One study he cites found that wearing cameras by Rialto, California cops reduced use of force incidents by 60 percent and complaints against police by 88 percent.

And as Reason's Paul Detrick learned by talking with former Seattle cop Steve Ward, "Everybody behaves better when they're on video." Ward is the head of Viewvu, a company that makes wearable cameras for law enforcement. Watch that interview now:

NEXT: Ferguson Police Have a Long, Troubling Record of Racial Profiling

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  1. and include safeguards against subsequent manipulation of any recordings.

    Oh, I’m sure they’ll find a way.

    1. The only safeguard necessary: If there is any manipulation of the recording or if the recording was “off” or “lost”, the officer’s story holds no weight, whether in court or otherwise.

      1. That’s what it should be. Of course it will never happen.

        What amazes me is how many people still take cops at their word. Isn’t is pretty well known that police routinely make shit up in reports and lie in court?

        1. People generally don’t figure this out until it happens to them, and even then most people assume it was an isolated incident instead of standard procedure.

          1. And if they do lie, they probably have a good reason for it and the bad guy gets what he deserves. Can’t have these criminals getting off on technicalities just because the police can’t do their job properly.

          2. What amazes me is how many *courts* still take cops at their word, because the courts have had plenty of time to learn better.

            I understand that secretly, a lot of courts do have at least an informal understanding of which local police officers are most likely to lie. How this translates into action must vary widely.

            Of course, it also amazes me how many courts still take the federal government at its word, for similar reasons.

            1. Convictions are more important than the truth.

  2. With direct uploads to Copspace.

  3. “To Avoid More Fergusons, Make Cops Wear Cameras Prosecute Every Fucking Cop Who Shoots People or Pets.”

    Cops shoot people because they can and they know there is an insignificant chance of any punishment.

    1. How about we do both things? And presume that if the camera wasn’t working that they are full of shit.

      1. Oh sure, I’m down with that.

        “What’s that? You camera malfunctioned again and at the critical moment of the shooting? That’s a shame. Your defense is summarily rejected. GUILTY.”

        1. Officer Jeremy Dear of the Albuquerque Police Department shot and killed a 19 year old car theft suspect. Officer Dear’s lapel camera, which is required to be turned on during interactions with the public, did not record the incident. Albuquerque Police officials have not revealed whether the camera was turned off or malfunctioned. Officer Dear, who had lied to investigators previously regarding the circumstances regarding his partner killing an unarmed suspect, has not been disciplined. He received a $500 travel stipend from the APD union so that he could “decompress away from the media” while on his paid time off. Standard APD policy when an officer kills a civilian.
          Camera policies are only as effective as the officials who enforce them.

          1. One quick note, this is the fifth incident in which Officer Dear was involved in the use of force against a civilian and his lapel camera was not recording. Officer Dear is the tenth highest paid city employee at 118,000 in 2013, making more than every one of his supervisors other than the chief of police. Officer Dear is paid more than the mayor of the City of Albuquerque.

            1. What a coinkydink.

    2. People become cops because it means they can do anything that they want. What are you going to do? Call the cops?

      1. I remember seeing once on reddit (ugh) someone relate how the craziest house parties were always cop parties. They (the cops) would get rowdy, the neighbors would call the cops, who would show up and join their compatriots for more of said rowdiness. I recall most of the comments being along the lines of “Hur hur wow that’s crazy awesome”

        1. Cops would take over the bar at this restaurant where I used to work, and it got downright scary. Big drunk fuckers getting all loud as they traded stories about choking and beating people. They’d drive out the rest of the paying customers, costing the place money. And what was the bartender or manager to do? Call the cops?

  4. Initial reports said there *was* video of the Ferguson shooting, taken by bystanders and confiscated by the police. Bets on when that will see the light of day?

    1. Confiscated or deleted? I believe it was deleted.

      1. Confiscated or deleted?

        Is there a difference?

  5. Or, make people pull up their pants, stop dancing in front of cars at stoplights and get out of the freakin’ street.

    1. And get off your lawn right?

  6. This won’t help much as long as the police are in charge of investigating them selves and are in charge of the videos. Several alleged cases of police misconduct in Portland, Oregon were taped by the police. Requests to see the video were met with “not while we (police) are investigating…” Mysteriously, the charges against the citizens are dropped and the videos are never seen. I guess this proves the old adage “no blood (on video), no foul.”

    1. In Albuquerque, Officer Jeremy Dear shot and killed a 19 year old female car theft suspect. His lapel camera did not record the incident. This is the fifth time Officer Dear has used force against civilians and his lapel camera did not record the incident. Officer Dear lied to investigators regarding the murder of an unarmed suspect by his partner. Officer Dear has racked up 11 excessive force complaints in his 7 years on the force. Not only has he never been disciplined, in 2013, he was the tenth highest paid employee of the city of Albuquerque, earing more than the Mayor of Albuquerque and more than every one of his superiors other than the chief of police. $118,000 for a beat copy with a history of violence against civilians and not a peep from the national media.

  7. To Avoid More Fergusons, Make Cops Wear Cameras

    No, just make them accountable. If cops can be shown on camera to beat an unarmed man unrecognizable and get off scott-free, accountability is the problem, not lack of video witness.

  8. I’ve created a petition on the White House’s website demanding just this. With 100,000 signatures, Obama will respond and raise the profile of this issue. The link to it is at the end of an article I wrote about this same subject a few weeks back but updated because the recent events. http://netsidebar.com/this-is-…..brutality/

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