Cameras Necessary after Police Violence in the Wake of Ferguson Missouri

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The tragedy of Ferguson has reached every corner of the World and has forced people to look at the current state of U.S. Police.  There are numerous questions surrounding the tragedy including fairness, race, and police brutality.  One common issue that has arisen out of this tragedy and other cases like it, around the world, is the lack of a clear record about what happened.

These incidents of police violence throughout our country beg the question of why we do not require all officers to wear cameras to record their activities.  In the past, the police stood behind claims that the cameras were bulky or that they did not work, or they did not store enough.   At this point in time, these claims are outright lies to the face of America.

Police departments still stand behind claims that there are too many problems with the cameras to be used.  Frankly, virtually everyone in the United States is carrying a camera on them, knows how to use that camera, and can rely on that camera working when they need it.  These cameras, of course, are built into our computers, are built into our cell phones, are attached to the rear of many vehicles and automatically activate when the car is backing up.

Additionally, the cities and counties that fund Sheriff’s departments and the like, are routinely using cameras at major intersections to record even the slightest traffic violations.  If the cameras can automatically take pictures from multiple angles when a person goes into the crosswalk, why can’t we get cameras to work when it is in the hands of an officer who is on duty?  We know they work when they are in the hands of officers who are off-duty, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that the court system is built around a reliance on officer testimony and the officer’s are simply unwilling to give up their monopoly on court testimony.  The truth is, police officers are consistently exaggerating and bending events to suit their needs and get convictions.  When cameras enter the picture, defendant’s end up walking.  This naturally upsets police officers but it shouldn’t.  It is a check on their biases and tendencies.  It allows them to reassess their understanding of crimes in light of the way jurors see the exact events.  If juries frequently acquit defendants who the police officer believes are guilty, then it should be the police officer who has to re-evaluate his position.

More importantly to the officers, the lack of cameras allows them to get convictions and thus promotions.  When the money is flowing, the officers are no different than a common drug dealer.  They actively choose to break the law to get more in their own pockets.  Additionally, the cities and counties do not want cameras because they know the regularity of illegal police brutality.  They know that if they put in cameras, that their liability will substantially increase.  Similar to the officers, the cities do not want their money to flow in the wrong direction, so they act as accomplices by hiding the truth from the public and covering up crimes to protect their pocket books.

Colorado is slowly introducing police videos but they seem to be only using them in situations where adverse witnesses are making statements.  They do not seem to be recording actions of the defendants or statements of the defendants and this is a serious problem and abuse of police discretion.

The police should not be allowed to get away with recording facts that support their version of the story but then fail to record facts that do not support their version of the story.  This “editing” that police are doing is simply unacceptable and it is a slap in the face of our jury system.  If a jury is going to decide a case, based on the facts, the police should not be allowed to purposely hide facts that do not support their version of the case.

It is time for police to begin recording every minute of their activities when on duty.  There is no question, at this point in time, that the technology is here to allow police to record everything, and that is exactly what they should be doing.  There shouldn’t be a switch that they turn on to begin recording.  There shouldn’t be the ability to turn off the camera.  They should be accountable for every second of their work because they are the protectors of our country.  When they fail us, they are failing our country and they are failing our forefathers who fought to prevent police indiscretion and a burdensome government.


The information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as the creation of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney.

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Nathaniel has worked in criminal law on both sides of the aisle spending time working for the prosecution as well as the defense. Most recently Nathaniel has represented individuals in violent felonies and drug cases. Prior to this work, Nathaniel handled DWIs, Domestic Violence Cases, Property Crimes, and White Collar Crimes. On the prosecutorial side, Nathaniel has most notably worked in Bosnia helping to prosecute individuals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Bosnian War from 1993-1995. In particular, Nathaniel helped in the prosecution of military leaders who arranged for the organized murders and rapes of innocent civilians in various towns in Bosnia. Nathaniel is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Northwestern University, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Google Profile: Nathaniel Baca