Eric Garner

Forget Eric Garner: Cops Should Want More Cameras Covering Their Every Move

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Crowd-sourced video of Eric Garner's death at the hands of New York City cops abounds. While it clearly shows police using a chokehold specifically banned by the NYPD, it wasn't enough to get a grand jury to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo. So we won't have the benefit of a trial in which the police might have presented exculpatory or mitigating evidence.

In cases such as this one, it's easy to understand why cops want to shut down people photographing and videotaping them on the job. But the fact of the matter is that dash cams and body cams are generally the police's best friends. From a new column I have at Time:

Police should actually be the most supportive of increasing the amount of footage, especially footage taken by cameras they're wearing. A year-long study of the Rialto, Calif., police department found that using "officer-worn cameras" reduced use-of-force incidents by 59% and reduced complaints against the cops by 87.5%. Between the Brown and Garner deaths—and cases such as the one in Cleveland where police shot and killed 12 year old Tamir Rice—law enforcement needs to work hard to regain the trust and confidence of the American public. Assuming they are acting in good faith and in accordance with proper policies, literally being able to show things from their point of view may be one of the best ways they can reassure us all.

This isn't a utopian solution but it is a pragmatic one that will make things better. And between the Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice cases, police everywhere should be looking for ways to improve their image with taxpayers everywhere.

Such technologically enabled transparency won't end all disputes between citizens and law enforcement but it will go a long way to providing clarity in ambiguous cases and, as important, minimizing bad actions by police and suspects alike.

Whole thing here.

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22 responses to “Forget Eric Garner: Cops Should Want More Cameras Covering Their Every Move

  1. OT: Liberal websites are PO’d with Rand Paul for saying that taxes killed Eric Garner.

    Have these people ever stopped to think that, while the cops were the ones who physically killed Garner, it was stupid politicians who implemented those tax laws? Honestly, the Left just loves taxes, even mindless ones. Had Garner been killed for marijuana possession, would liberals be angry at Paul for pointing out the mindlessness of stupid drug laws?

    1. And I’m also annoyed with the conservatives who say that the police had to enforce this unjust law. No, they didn’t. Doing horrible things because you have to pay your bills is a terrible excuse.

      1. Well, there is something else. Police do have discretion about the enforcement of laws. Have none of these people ever heard of police letting someone off with a warning?

      2. Liberals should be more critical of government, and conservatives should be more critical of law enforcement.

      3. Except that the order to crack down on loosie sales came down just a few days before Garner’s death, straight from the NYPD’s top uniformed officer, Philip Banks III – so the street cops in this case DID have to enforce this specific law, no matter how dumb they thought the brass were being about it.

  2. Something something ramble booya blargle argle long rant something whatever surfing Morgan Powerchild something Fairlifter something BOOYA BODEE CAMERUHZ

    hth smoochiz

  3. Assuming they are acting in good faith and in accordance with proper policies, literally being able to show things from their point of view may be one of the best ways they can reassure us all.

    While I’ve been inclined to agree with you that this would be a boon for honest police officers, I can’t help but wonder at the robustness of your assumption there, Nick.

    That said, it’s possible that these high profile cases (Garner, Rice) catch our attention more than some population of what I would hope would be much more workaday cases where police are cleared by bodycams.

    1. Yeah, my first question is: How much control did the Rialto cops have over their cameras?

      Ideally, cops would be required to record every interaction they had with anyone and the video would be released upon request to involved parties and perhaps the public in general. Furthermore, if an officer’s failed to record an interaction for any reason, the officer would have to be disciplined severely. I’d also like to see a law that renders all evidence collected without a video record to be inadmissible in court.

      But who am I kidding? All this depends on police departments actually wanting to do a better job of serving and protecting people other than themselves.

  4. The Eric Garner case makes a powerful argument for why cops should support body cameras – because the evidence they produce will still be ignored in court whenever it makes the police look bad.

    1. There’s nothing to ignore if the officer “forgot” to turn his camera on or if the camera suffered an “accidental” mechanical failure.

    2. Even in the Garner case, where there was very clear footage, that shitbird Bratton still trotted out the old line about “well, video doesn’t show you the entire context of the incident”. He is completely shameless. Presented with what is LITERALLY A PICTURE OF OFFICERS KILLING A MAN, he basically says, “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?”

  5. Libertarians = pro Body-Cams, but Anti-CCTV Surveillance State?

    I’m not saying its the same thing… but just curious why there’s no apparent reflection on prior positions on the issue of “Panopticon Policing”

    Digging in the crates… it seems that the idea of ‘the state being engaged in constant documentation of daily life’ was seen as an obvious source of increased encroachment rather than ‘protection’ =

    “”When residents invite [State] cameras into their communities, for example, they certainly no longer “expect” privacy, so there is little basis for a legal challenge should anyone object later…

    …even if crime rates are not lowered, recorded surveillance camera images make possible such creative and unprecedented practices as “retrospective arrest.” In England, for example, disgruntled soccer fans caused a melee in downtown Newcastle in May 1996. After reviewing video surveillance tapes, police isolated 152 faces, arresting nine of the offenders immediately. They then allowed a local newspaper to publish the faces of 80 others.

    …Already, police are tracing the license plate numbers of cars photographed driving down Hollywood’s Yucca Street and sending letters to the owners informing them their cars have been spotted in a ‘known drug trafficking area’.”

    Just sayin’.

    1. I don’t really have a problem with CCTV as long as it doesn’t look anywhere a human eye on public access land couldn’t look. This includes wavelengths available to the human eye. If they start pointing next-gen millimeter wave cameras at bedrooms then I would have a problem.

      1. I should qualify that by saying the problem with CCTV cameras is directly related to the problem with “public” property. Private citizens can, of course, install as many cameras as they want on their own property.

    2. Can’t speak for anyone else, but I think it’s the distinction between the citizenry monitoring the state and the state monitoring the citizenry. Employers regularly do monitor their employees. I don’t see bodycams as particularly different.

    3. @Gilmore
      I was thinking something similar, just too lazy to look up prior positions on cameras. I think Reason has slipped into the same hypocrisy as other media with an agenda.
      How about this thought? Reason wants smaller federal gov, but welcomes Holder’s big nose in this case. “Stay out of my life, unless I don’t get my way locally, then come help with my agenda?”
      I think that meets the definition of hypocrisy.

      1. Could you link me to a piece showing Reason’s opposition to the federal court system?

        This is the same idiotic thinking that some “libertarians” use to condemn the civil war. Say whatever you want about state’s rights, but murder, like slavery before it, is not just, no matter the political philosophy underpinnings. States that tolerate either should be brought to heel.

      2. The idea behind CCTV surveillance is to keep track of the populace and catch people doing things they can be fined for. Body cams on cops are intended to monitor Our employees on the job so we as taxpayers can know when they abuse the authority we give them as well as hopefully avoid million dollar lawsuits. So I don’t see any hypocrisy in Reason’s default position.

  6. I agree with the cameras. It’s going to cost the taxpayers though.

  7. Crowd-sourced video of Eric Garner’s death at the hands of New York City cops abounds. While it clearly shows police using a chokehold specifically banned by the NYPD, it wasn’t enough to get a grand jury to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo

    I appreciate Gillespie’s basic story, but, but, but….gawdammit, but why start out supposing or implying in the very first sentence that the grand jury was at fault? That the grand jury really saw the video unedited, with the audio, unframed, without tendentious commentary, without pauses and remarks, and without other manipulative BS that would nix “enough to get a grand jury to indict”? The default hypothesis should be that the DA’s office did the dirty work. The role or otherwise of the crowd-sourced video would seem to be irrelevant, if the apparatchiks don’t care in the first place.

  8. IIRC the chokehold is banned by the NYPD in its regulations, but has never been made illegal in city law – so it’s the cops who are ahead of the politicians in this regard.

    Four mayors and ten city councils have been in office since the NYPD made their change, and for 21 years nobody saw fit to fix this mess. They dumped the ambiguous situation on grand juries saying “here – you figure it out, but if you make the politically-incorrect call we’re going to sharpton ourselves in front of every TV camera we can find.”

    Bratton points out this state of affairs after the Garner death and he’s the bad guy?

  9. IMO body cameras would only be marginally helpful. And of course Obama wants to throw 55 million at the problem to “study the effects of bodycameras”. I’m sure social academics everywhere licked their chops at that. It seems like we could make some pretty good assumptions for free: The cops who value appearance or have superiors with any hint of morality will act better on camera. The cops who don’t care and are willing to strangle a man in broad daylight with camera’s rolling will not. Done. Where do I pick up the $55 million?

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