By Dr. Ray Kessler, who is, incidentally, a retired Prof. of Criminal Justice, former defense attorney and prosecutor is your host. I am also a part-time instructor in Criminal Justice at Richland College, an outstanding, 2-year institution in Dallas, TX.
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Monday, August 08, 2016
OFFICERS NOT TURNING ON BODY CAMS
"The critical moment when a gunman opened fire on two San Diego police officers, killing one, may never be seen. The surviving officer only activated his camera after the wounded shooter was running away.
San Diego is among departments with policies calling for officers to turn on cameras before initiating contact with a citizen in most cases. But like other departments, compliance is less than perfect.
The result is inconsistent use of an increasingly common tool meant to give investigators and an often-skeptical public a fuller picture of police actions.
"The main motive of body cameras is to provide openness and transparency, and build trust in the police," said Samuel Walker, a retired criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
"If officers are not turning cameras on, well, you're not going to build trust," he said. "You're going to reinforce the cynicism that already exists."
He pointed to a study that showed across-the-board low compliance rates of officers in one high-crime Phoenix neighborhood between April 2013 and May 2014, the most recent information available. Officers only recorded 6.5 percent of traffic stops even though the department's policy required cameras to be activated "as soon as it is safe and practical," according to the study, conducted by Arizona State University's Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety.
The biggest part of the problem, Walker said, is a lack of discipline.
Chicago, Dallas, Denver, New Orleans, New York, Oakland and San Diego are among the cities that don't specify penalties when officers fail to record, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law.
The American Civil Liberties Union has studied the issue and said clear policies are vital, along with punishment for failure to comply"
Too often reform efforts are 'let's pretend' efforts doing just enough to relieve public pressure without really dealing with the problem. Without effective discipline and severe sanctions, body-cams will be much less effective if cops realize they can turn off the camera without any significant punishment. You can perhaps guess the sincerity of the departments efforts by the effectiveness of its discipline and strength of sanction.
The body camera worn by the Chicago
police officer failed to record the shooting of Paul O'Neal. The 18-year-old
was suspected of stealing a car that struck the officer's vehicle during the
chase late last week, according to police.
Whether the crash affected the
camera's ability to record is under investigation, police said. Investigators
are also looking into whether the officer had turned it on. Three officers have
been stripped of their police powers. The department's body-camera policy
explicitly states what incidents must be filmed.
"Policies are only as good as
the disciplinary procedures," said Harlan Yu, a principal at Upturn, which
provides Internet expertise for policymakers on a range of social issues.
"Yes, Chicago has what appears
to be a great policy that lists all the kinds of incidents that police officers
need to have their camera on for. But in the shooting of Paul O'Neal it appears
that this officer violated the policy. Now the question is what happens to this
officer and what disciplinary procedures will there be so that officers will
comply with policies in place."
The shooting is the latest to
highlight concerns over the burgeoning use of body cameras as a way to increase
transparency and accountability. Here's what you need to know:
many police departments use body cams?
As of this month, 42 of 68 "major
city" police departments in the United States have body-worn camera
programs with policies in place, according to a "Policy
Scorecard" released this week by the activist Leadership
Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn. . .
In this case from Chicago, it is
possible that the camera was damaged or malfunctioned and was not deliberately
turned off by the officer.However, if
it was intentionally turned off, the discipline needs to be severe.