One California Town’s Answer to Police Brutality…

…has lowered the use of force by 60%.  It’s pretty simple: the cops are required to wear video cameras while on duty.

One unexpected side effect of the surveillance state is that the police are being watched too.

So when some cop decides to show a guy in a wheelchair who is boss:

or bash in a woman’s face:

We, increasingly, see it too. And sometimes, the cop actually faces consequences for his actions that go beyond Severe Vacation with Pay.

I suspect this state of affairs won’t last since our Ruling Class dislikes accountability and will find a way to exempt its enforcers from having to abide by the rules they place on the rest of us. Such laws will likely be abolished. What won’t be so easily abolished is private citizens with cell cams and Youtube access. It’s healthy when the state fears us seeing what they are doing. That is as it should be.

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  • Elaine S.

    “Such laws will likely be abolished”

    Maybe in the future, but for now, at least, the trend is in the opposite direction. Until recently Illinois had a strict eavesdropping law that made it illegal to record (audio or video) any conversation unless BOTH parties to it consented — meaning that in most cases, citizens videotaping police actions without the police knowing they were doing it was a crime. For that very reason, the law has now been repealed.

  • Joe

    Maybe we could also make sure we don’t make animalistic brutes into cops.

  • quasimodo

    I know a young man on a University police department who wears a video camera and when people warn him they are videoing his actions he calmly tells them he is videoing it too. Keeps everyone honest.

  • Joseph

    Something is better than nothing, I suppose. But I think the problem is a massive culture change in law enforcement that has taken place in the last couple of decades. They are trained that anyone (men, women, and children) is a legitimate target and potential danger and they actually have the legal right to use force, even lethal, if they *believe* that the target poses a legitimate threat to their safety. This *sense* has been used broadly to exhonerate cops for actually killing and maiming unarmed suspects to escape punishment. They are also being trained to be suspicious of everyone which means they view you as guilty until proven innocent the minute you come into view.
    When they aren’t making bad decisions with drawn pistols, they’ve become trigger happy with the tasers as well since they are trained that they are harmless.
    I have a family member who was a high ranking policeman and also worked with the DEA. He has long since retired. Even he has become angry with modern policing and has, at one point, even stated that he *doesn’t like cops*. If you knew him, like I know him, you’d realise just how significant a statement like that is coming from him.

    • IRVCath

      Is that completely irrational when there is a perception that in a society where at least a significant minority is legally or illegally armed, that said armed persons might, either through malice or loss of reason, open up on the police? Remember most of this is in response to things like the North Hollywood shootout or the Rodney King riots.

      • jroberts548

        Cops are more likely to die due to bad driving than to someone “open[ing] up” them. Cops are less likely to die on the job than garbagemen, taxi drivers, and loggers.

        Cops have a completely irrational conception of the risk that they face. Every time a cop runs a red light, speeds, tailgates, or parks his car halfway on the shoulder in traffic, he’s putting himself at more risk than he does during an encounter with the public. Every time a trash collector goes to work, he puts himself at more risk than a cop does, yet no one expects trash collectors to start shooting people.

  • quasimodo

    I’ve been upset by the increasing militarization of our police departments, the number of smash and enter arrests at the wrong addresses, the number of innocent people killed by smash and enter operations at the wrong addresses. I’ve been upset by things like the Ferguson Mo. police officers who beat an innocent man – a man they already knew they had misidentified and yet who they refused to release – then they charged him with “On and/or about the 20th day of Sept. 20, 2009 at or near 222 S.
    Florissant within the corporate limits of Ferguson, Missouri, the above
    named defendant did then and there unlawfully commit the offense of
    ‘property damage,’ to wit, did transfer blood to the uniform,” The address is their headquarters. He bled on their uniforms because they beat him. Then they committed perjury over the incident. (Did I mention this was in Ferguson Mo? Yes I think I did.)

    Any way after going on about this kind of thing, my wife calmly asked if this was any different from the priests scandal. Most are innocent but there are a few that need to be purged.

  • Pete the Greek

    I’m against the surveillance state on principle, but very much agree it would be best to force law enforcement of all stripes to wear recording devices.

    Note: This would not be JUST to prevent brutality, but also could be an EXCELLENT method of QUICKLY determining the truth about events such as what happened in St. Louis. Easier reviewing a video/audio recording of an incident than ONLY relying on secondary sources.

    • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com/ Beadgirl

      Right. I think it can only benefit, and I’m glad it is seriously being considered here in NYC.

      • Pete the Greek

        OH! And If some of the officers balk at this, simply tell them: “Well, you wanted to be like soldiers, right? Tons of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have to wear helmet cams. So what’s your problem?”

        On a different topic, if you want to see examples of raw confusion and straight up just strangeness, check out the helmet cams of soldiers on YouTube. They don’t show killing or anything like that that I’ve seen, but it really opens your eyes about how confusing these shootouts can be.

    • Benjamin2.0

      I was just wondering about how much of the 60% reduction in the use of force was due to that converse effect. In addition to keeping police honest, recording these altercations takes the possibility of falsely claiming police brutality off the table, as well.

      • Pete the Greek

        That’s a good question. I don’t know of any place that breaks down the numbers, unfortunately.

        • Benjamin2.0

          Given the subject, I doubt that could be done, anyway. It could add to your list of “sells” to the police community, though.

  • ImTim

    Just this week I wrote my State Legislators and asked them to create legislation requiring state law enforcement officers to wear these body cameras. So far, I’ve received no response from my legislators, but one from outside my district contacted me.

    This is non-partisan, public safety, and believe it or not, civil rights need.

  • David Naas

    What is it “V” says?
    “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

    But when the government becomes afraid of its people, the reaction is the same whether Germany Russia, or the good old USA — militarize the police suspend civil liberty, lie, block, intimidate, and brutalize.

    It isn’t the fault of the policeman, but of the system which wants him to be Gestapo.

    • Mike Blackadder

      Sometimes it IS the fault of the policeman. It’s the fault of anger, impatience, personal prejudices, ego, selfishness. LIke the COP who hits someone because they won’t obey or have insulted them. It isn’t REALLY a dangerous situation, but is used as a quick and dirty way of establishing ‘control’ of the situation.

      • David Naas

        Sometimes.
        Once in Chicago (mid-late ’60’s), I found this out for myself from one of the city’s “finest”. But think it arises from the “cop culture” which sees anyone not in uniform as the enemy. Said culture grows when lack of oversight allows it.

        • Mike Blackadder

          I’ve luckily had few run-ins with police who are anything but professional in the situation. However, even I have experienced in practice that the respect of their individual authority is sometimes taken to be the highest priority in the situation, even at the expense of escalating violence. The problem is that THAT particular emphasis will tend to reinforce some of our less virtuous tendencies as human beings.

  • Mike Blackadder

    Agreed. A police officer is specially authorized to use force in civil society and it’s legitimate that such use of force be measured and scrutinized if possible.
    Some will say that it endangers an officer because they will be more cautious when acting to protect themselves when in danger. But THAT particular struggle is exactly what SHOULD be going through an officer’s mind when on duty and considering the use of force. Maybe causes these men and women to reflect on how they will handle such situations before it happens and they are on camera!

  • Dave G.

    I think that works and is a great idea. Fair, too. After all, they’re on the job and their job has a special edge to it that most don’t. If I go in an have a crappy day, I could mess things up, but they could be fixed. If a police officer lets his crappy day impact his job, people could die. But like Pete down below said, police are people, too. And this could also help show when the officer in question may have acted appropriately. It won’t solve all the problems, but it would help in some cases, and I can’t think of a negative. A good idea all around.


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