REPOST – Body Cameras Worn by Police Officers Are No ‘Safeguard of Truth,’ Experts Say By VIVIAN YEE and KIRK JOHNSON 11:30 AM (via NYTIMES NOW app)

Sorry, the The New York Times article i linked on Facebook was pulled from their main site for some reason; it still shows in a Google Search, but the link is broken. (i’m hoping it’s not because they fact checked it, and found out VIVIAN YEE & KIRK JOHNSON didn’t know what they were talking about). In an attempt to relay the information in the article, I cut and pasted from my NY Times Now App & re-posted it here: http://wp.me/p3rdk6-1J

I don’t know if i’m all for the Body Cameras, or not – it seems a little bit of over surveillance of the population to me – and we know how government likes to have cameras everywhere. I just know that we are going to have a different type of testimony in the future. It will be corrupted, because, government tends to corrupt things, but i suppose, at least for the most part – in the overall grand scheme of things – we can get around the he said she said.

i find it odd that a society that lies as much as ours does, is looking for truth in video. Don’t they know we’re really good at creating spin?


Body Cameras Worn by Police Officers Are No ‘Safeguard of Truth,’ Experts Say

By VIVIAN YEE and KIRK JOHNSON
11:30 AM

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Michael Brown’s family, on the night of the Ferguson grand jury decision, called for all police in the United States to wear body cameras.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in announcing that some of New York’s police officers would begin wearing them, said “body cameras are one of the ways to create a real sense of transparency and accountability.”

And on Monday, President Obama said he would request $75 million in federal funds to distribute 50,000 body cameras to police departments nationwide, saying they would improve police relations with the public.

But even as departments have started adopting the technology, questions remain about how much it can actually prevent violent encounters with citizens or clarify the boundaries of appropriate police response.

No consensus has emerged about when officers should turn on their cameras, which could leave departments open to accusations of selective recording. And tapes do not always lead to universally shared conclusions. The footage of Eric Garner’s death this year on Staten Island and of Rodney G. King’s beating by Los Angeles officers in 1991 ultimately revealed the shortcomings of video as evidence, even as they thrust violence against unarmed black men into the public eye.

So while video offers the illusion of absolute truth, police officials and legal experts say, it can just as often turn into a Rorschach test.

“We shouldn’t just think of video as the safeguard of truth — ‘Now we have incontrovertible evidence of the truth of what happened,’ ” said Mary D. Fan, a criminal law professor at the University of Washington School of Law and a former federal prosecutor. “It isn’t necessarily the magic bullet, that now we know the truth and that we’ll all agree, we’ll see the same thing and agree on the same thing.”

Body cameras have already played a role in a few police disciplinary cases. In Phoenix, for example, an officer was fired after his camera captured him in repeated instances of profanity, verbal abuse and threats against civilians.

In other cases it was the absence of video that got the officer in trouble. An officer in Daytona Beach, Fla., was forced to resign after he was caught turning off his camera at critical moments. An Albuquerque officer who shot and killed a woman in April — and whose camera was off at the time — was fired on Monday after being investigated for not complying with department orders that required officers to record all interactions with civilians.

But even when video does exist, it is often not decisive. In the case of Mr. Garner, the Staten Island man who died in July after a police officer put him in a chokehold, a video of the encounter taken with a bystander’s cellphone and viewed millions of times was enough to stir visceral outrage — but not to secure an indictment.

“I don’t know what video they were looking at,” said Gwen Carr, Mr. Garner’s mother, referring to the grand jury that cleared the officer, on Wednesday. “Evidently it wasn’t the same one that the rest of the world was looking at.”

Many of those who poured out to demonstrate after the Garner decision thought, as Greg Jackson, 25, a law student from Oakland, Calif., did, that the video would make an indictment “a slam dunk.”

But slam dunks are rare.

In the beating of Mr. King, the Los Angeles officers involved were acquitted despite a video, shot by a nearby resident, showing them repeatedly kicking and hitting him with batons. In the case that inspired the film “Fruitvale Station,” the transit officer who fatally shot Oscar Grant III in Oakland, Calif., in 2009 was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, a lesser verdict than many protesters had called for after cellphone video of Mr. Grant’s death circulated online.

For one thing, jurors are often sympathetic to police arguments. The officers charged with beating Mr. King after a car chase argued that he was uncooperative and making movements they deemed potentially threatening. (Two of the four acquitted officers were later convicted in federal court of violating Mr. King’s civil rights.)

And police have some latitude to use force when making an arrest. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who applied the chokehold to Eric Garner, narrated three videos taken of the encounter while testifying before the grand jury, saying he intended only to wrestle Mr. Garner to the ground.

Confronted with a video, the police usually “have a version that seeks to explain what you see, not necessarily to contradict what you see, but to explain it,” said John Burris, an Oakland-based civil rights lawyer who worked on the King and Grant cases.

The potential for officers to tailor their testimony to video evidence highlights an ongoing debate over the extent to which police should have control of or access to the videos taken by their body cameras.

The majority of police chiefs surveyed last year by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit police research and policy organization, said they supported allowing officers to review videos before making statements. In New York, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said officers will have the same opportunity.

Rules about when officers should activate their cameras vary. Some departments have no written policy, according to the Police Executive Research Forum’s report. A common approach requires recording when responding to 911 calls and any situation that might involve criminal enforcement. Officers have the discretion to turn their cameras off under most policies, the report said, but must explain their decision in writing or on camera.

The concern is that “they’ll be selective, that there will be Watergate gaps in the record,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “There have to be mechanisms to ensure against that.”

The New York Police Department has yet to finalize its policy, though officials said the current draft calls for officers to record in seven instances, which include arrests and any use of force. Interior patrols in housing projects were added to the list after an officer shot and killed an unarmed black man in a housing project stairwell in Brooklyn last month.

When it comes to enforcing the policies, “the implications for legitimacy are going to be pretty profound,” said Michael White, the author of a Department of Justice study on police body cameras. “If you have a police encounter that results in a citizen’s death, and it was supposed to be recorded and it wasn’t, you can imagine what the citizens’ reaction would be.”

Cities are moving forward with camera programs even in the absence of much evidence of their benefits: Only three studies have been conducted on them in the United States, Mr. White said, though they have been promising.

In Rialto, Calif.; Mesa, Ariz.; and Phoenix, the use of force and civilian complaints against officers when they wore cameras decreased. But Mr. White cautioned: “We have no idea what the dynamics are that are leading to those reductions.”

In the Garner case, Officer Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, said his client believed he was in the right, so it did not bother him that he was being filmed.

“I expect everything to be filmed,” he said the officer told the grand jury.

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