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Crime Technology

Cameras On Cops: Coming To a Town Near You 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-the-record dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The trend of police officers using body-mounted cameras is going nationwide. As we discussed last month, the NYPD is pondering the cameras, and the LAPD is actively testing them. A town in California (population ~100,000) has tested them with seeming success: incidents involving officers using force have dropped more than half, and citizen complaints have dropped almost 90%. '[C]ops are required to turn on their cameras in any confrontation with a suspect or citizen. The footage is uploaded to computers when they return to the station, and is typically retained for one to three months.' The town's success is even drawing interest from police departments in other countries. The ACLU likes the idea, but has problems with it in practice, so they're opposing the trend (PDF). They worry about privacy abuses, and they want citizens caught on camera to be allowed equal access to the footage."
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Cameras On Cops: Coming To a Town Near You

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  • Won't do any good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rahvin112 (446269) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:10PM (#46485125)

    Fact is as long as they can turn the cameras on or off and the video is in police custody this will do almost nothing to reduce police abuse. Either the camera will be off, the video will be "lost" or the recording device will be "broken". They want the video for convictions, but they will make damn sure the video is lost or the camera is off when they go to beat the shit out of some innocent person.

    They should be required to wear camera, the cameras should record while they are on shift and video should be stored by an independent third party. Any missing footage should result in someone being fired.

  • Re:Broken camera (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GerryGilmore (663905) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:11PM (#46485133)
    Look, there are always going to be abuses of ANY system, but anything that helps raise the bar of accountability is inherently a Good Thing(TM) so please stop the whining about how it's not totally perfect.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:18PM (#46485229)

    Run around and point a video cam at a cop.

    Or ... better don't.

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:22PM (#46485263)

    A lot of the good (from the police perspective) is that people don't act like jerks when they're clearly being filmed. Amazingly you're less likely to be a dick to cops when the camera is on you. In-car cameras turn on and off automatically when they have the lights and sirens on. Pull a guy over, and video gets shot - period. Wearables don't have that yet, but we'll get there.

    I know that even mentioning this on /. gets you modded to oblivion, but the overwhelming majority of police are good people with a genuine desire to do good in the world -- and they're not out there looking to bust heads and turn off their cameras...especially in a world where every last person on a planet has their own camera and might catch it. There's obviously a good number of well documented "bad cop" cases, but there's a lot of cops, and bad cop stories make news, because it's a big violation of our trust.

    The ACLU and others will fight for transparency with those videos - and the videos will keep cops and people safer.

  • Re:Broken camera (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw (121541) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:25PM (#46485293) Journal

    This! Every system can be defeated, but each new system that has to be defeated is good. Plus, for anything serious more than one cop will be there, and stories about "accidental damage to devices" become even less likely to fly when it coincidentally affects all 6 officers who responded to the same incident, and no one else that day.

  • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:26PM (#46485311)

    Not only this -- I suspect that a large part of the 90% drop in complaints has to do with the fact that it makes it a lot harder for people to lie about their interaction with a police officer.

  • by Jaime2 (824950) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:35PM (#46485411)

    So, when cops have cameras, reported incidents of police using force dropped by half. I believe that means that 50% of uses of force were unwarranted or unnecessary, otherwise why would they have stopped?

    This sound like pretty clear evidence that police think they can get away with bending the law as long as no one (except the victim) sees them.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:39PM (#46485477)

    Not only this -- I suspect that a large part of the 90% drop in complaints has to do with the fact that it makes it a lot harder for people to lie about their interaction with a police officer.

    I agree with this, BUT...

    Having been a victim of what I definitely consider to be police abuse... in a situation in which video that was clearly being made somehow later "went missing", I also have to agree that this very much works both ways.

    I agree with the ACLU, to the extent that I agree there should be independent oversight of these videos, and any "missing" video should be a cause for reprimand at the very LEAST.

    Because I also happen to live in an area that has experienced many years of police "incidents" in which innocent people somehow end up injured or dead, but there was no independent investigation, and the internal "investigations" have almost invariably exonerated the policeman, even when no reasonable person looking at the same evidence would (or does) conclude that no wrong had been committed.

    I agree that most police are probably fine people. I even have relatives who are or have been police. But the few who aren't good can cause a hell of a lot of damage, especially when there is more than one of them and they scratch each others' backs.

  • by Copid (137416) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:42PM (#46485517)
    This is the best part of it IMO. It doesn't matter whose fault the problems were. Was it the suspect misbehaving? Was it an abusive cop? Is it a liar trying to get an officer in trouble after the fact? On the whole, it's a mix of all of them, but we don't need to know the actual mix to appreciate the fact that it seems to be better for everybody.

    It's very hard for police unions to fight against something that clearly reduces their physical danger and exposure to complaints. If they save face by pretending that the cameras are making the "bad guys" behave and that it wasn't a police problem in the first place, that's fine by me.
  • Re:Broken camera (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Comrade Ogilvy (1719488) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:45PM (#46485559)
    Also most incidents of bad behavior start off with police officers who walk in ambiguous situations with the initial intention to behave professionally (e.g. the officers who beat up Rodney King were not intending to lose control of their emotions and the situation when the encounter started). Those police officers will not turn off their cameras.
  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:46PM (#46485569) Journal

    I know that even mentioning this on /. gets you modded to oblivion, but the overwhelming majority of police are good people with a genuine desire to do good in the world -- and they're not out there looking to bust heads and turn off their cameras...especially in a world where every last person on a planet has their own camera and might catch it. There's obviously a good number of well documented "bad cop" cases, but there's a lot of cops, and bad cop stories make news, because it's a big violation of our trust.

    The problem isn't a small minority of bad cops, it's the alleged majority of good cops that don't immediately report and ostracize the bad cops.

    You end up with a police culture that intentionally turns a blind eye to bad behavior.
    That's not lawful good, no matter how you try and spin it.

  • by jythie (914043) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:46PM (#46485577)
    Yeah, but one side has the ability to mysteriously disappear the recordings while the other does not.
  • by Copid (137416) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:47PM (#46485583)
    Either that or people see cameras on them and are less likely to run or resist arrest. But most likely a mixture of the two. I'm sure there's a lot of misbehavior on both sides when the cameras are off. It looks like the cameras are a big win for everybody.
  • Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Uberbah (647458) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:48PM (#46485605)

    A lot of the good (from the police perspective) is that people don't act like jerks when they're clearly being filmed.

    Everyone knows that cops have had video cameras mounted in their cars, for decades. Neat how you skipped the parts of the summary talking about how police violence and complaints have dropped dramatically where these cameras have been used.

    Almost like it's the cops who are the real jerks here. Interesting.

    but the overwhelming majority of police are good people with a genuine desire to do good in the world -- and they're not out there looking to bust heads and turn off their cameras...especially in a world where every last person on a planet has their own camera and might catch it

    The problem with the "aww, it's just a few bad apples" canard is that one bad one rots the whole barrel. When all your "good cops" are willing to commit perjury to cover up for the "bad apples", there are no good cops.

  • fascist apologist (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Uberbah (647458) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:53PM (#46485653)

    I suspect you should have a good chat with Kelly Thomas and revise your storyline. Or read up on LEO departments stealing millions from people not convicted of any crime via "asset forfeiture". Or how hundreds of thousands of mostly black and brown men are stopped in NYC without probable suspicion under "stop and frisk".

  • Re:Broken camera (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:57PM (#46485695) Homepage

    You may want to look up the word "unjustifiable".

    The shooting [dailymail.co.uk] may have been stupid and tragic, but it's pretty easily justified. Watching the video, the man gets out of his truck without being asked to, ignores the officer calling to him, then pulls a long thin object out of a holder in the back of the cab, which he immediately swings toward the officer. The officer, upon seeing what looks like a small rifle or shotgun aimed at him, shoots the apparently-armed man. The officer didn't realize it was a cane, and the man didn't think it'd look like a gun.

    It was pretty obviously a mistake. What's right now is not to whine about "police abuse", but rather to heal the man (who survived and is reportedly doing well), understand that Hanlon's Razor is still valid, and move on.

  • by Megane (129182) on Friday March 14, 2014 @01:58PM (#46485715) Homepage
    You forgot D) it's possible that some or many of the reports of excessive force were bullshit, and this weeds out false accusations.
  • by mythosaz (572040) on Friday March 14, 2014 @02:07PM (#46485815)

    You reported your friend too, right ?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 14, 2014 @02:09PM (#46485833)

    Let's put this in a different light to show you why the ACLU took this position. You are a programmer writing the ruleset to be used to prioritize some set of functions in your project. Once you are finished, you send your ruleset (a bill to be voted on) to committee for peer review and feed back. Maybe call it the "beta" version of your ruleset.

    The ACLU(quality control staff) is basically telling the lawmakers(you, the grunt programmer) that while this bill(ruleset) they want to pass has the general idea, there are a number of glaring holes that will be exploited to cause predictable and unpredictable outcomes. Instead of just passing your swiss cheese ruleset along to later be patched up, the ACLU is saying to send it back to be done correctly.

    So really, they are trying to help implement a good idea in a positive fashion, as opposed to letting people take a good idea and muck it up with potential failure.

  • by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Friday March 14, 2014 @02:15PM (#46485893) Homepage

    A picture is worth a thousand words, but a jury will sleep through a negative inference instruction.

  • by FuzzNugget (2840687) on Friday March 14, 2014 @02:16PM (#46485905)

    the overwhelming majority of police are good people with a genuine desire to do good in the world

    Any cop who consciously neglects to report a corrupt colleague or subordinate is equally corrupt.

    Are you really suggesting the "overwhelming majority" of "good people" in uniform have no idea what their colleagues and subordinates are up to and are completely unaware of their corruption? Do you have idea how minutely detailed the paperwork is required to be and how glaringly obvious it is when details are "missing" or plainly false?

    Has there ever been a single situation where one corrupt jackass is tazing some innocent law-abider for "non-compliance" and one of the five other cops standing around him said, "what the fuck are you doing? You can't just torture someone into submission!" ... of course not, they readily assist him by wrenching the victim's arms to put him/her in cuffs to be dragged into the cruiser (or worse).

    Until we get rid of this "protect the brotherhood above all else" attitude that's heavily ingrained in police culture, corruption will continue to reign and continually worsen.

  • Re:Broken camera (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 14, 2014 @02:19PM (#46485951)

    Also most incidents of bad behavior start off with police officers who walk in ambiguous situations with the initial intention to behave professionally (e.g. the officers who beat up Rodney King were not intending to lose control of their emotions and the situation when the encounter started). Those police officers will not turn off their cameras.

    Is "most" your guess, or do you actually have any evidence? (Although, I suppose it depends what you mean by "behave professionally"...)

  • by Jack Griffin (3459907) on Friday March 14, 2014 @02:55PM (#46486307)

    There's obviously a good number of well documented "bad cop" cases, but there's a lot of cops, and bad cop stories make news, because it's a big violation of our trust.

    I tend not to pay much attention the news, but my problem is not so much good cop/bad cop but stupid cop. Maybe I have a nostalgia goggles, but when I grew up, cops wore blue trousers and a blue shirt and shoes, like an office worker. You'd see them walking the beat and they were friendly and said hello. Now every time I see cops they have commando boots, cargo pants and a combat vest with guns and tasers and all sorts of GI Joe paraphernalia. They have visible tattoos and wrap around sunglasses and all like look like wannabe gangster thugs. It makes it hard for me to teach my kids to respect the law when the create that image for themselves.

  • by Uberbah (647458) on Friday March 14, 2014 @03:17PM (#46486527)

    Who do you guys even think you're kidding here? When was the last time you heard of a LEO held in contempt of court for perjury or falsifying evidence, much less charged by a DA, much less convicted? The cops that murdered Kelly Thomas by bashing his head in as he screamed for help from his father were just let off scott free. You have to have something as egregious as a cop shooting a handcuffed man lying facedown on the pavement, on fucking video, before they serve time. And even then, they serve less time than a football player who shot himself in the leg.

    So again, who do you even think you're kidding here, Slick? Try and tell us with a straight face that if you give a group of people a huge amount of authority, with next to zero accountability, that their authority wont be abused on a constant basis.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 14, 2014 @03:21PM (#46486577)

    When black and brown men commit and overwhelming majority of crime, they will be subjected to more scrutiny by the police. That doesn't make that scrutiny acceptable, but that's what happens when your respective cultures promote, celebrate, and encourage crime.

  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Friday March 14, 2014 @08:41PM (#46489191) Journal

    I used to think that the ACLU was a force for good, and they might be. But they do not know when to quit, or compromise on anything. Here we are finally getting accountability for law enforcement, and now they want to stop the program?

    Obviously you didn't RTFA.

    The ACLU complaint was that while the law requires LEOs to carry the cameras, it does not mandate that they actually record anything, it does not mandate that the recordings be made available to the citizens who were arrested, interviewed, or interacted with, and it doesn't specify a data retention policy.

    The ACLU agreed that cameras are good. They want mandatory recordings rather than optional recordings. They want the complete, unedited recording to be available to the citizens involved. And they want a data retention policy so officers cannot delete the material the same day, nor can they keep it indefinitely.

    The ACLU's 2-page comment (see the article) cited specific cases where these were problems. One had multiple officers turn cameras off when a citizen didn't cooperate, then they turned the cameras back on to reveal a citizen who was badly injured, with the official report being they had injured themselves while resisting arrest. Also it cites accounts where officers clearly edited footage by removing potentially incriminating bits, and of officers deleting the recordings the same day rather than filing them as part of the reports of their associated incidents.

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