Has Obama’s Police Body Camera Policy Taken A Hit?
Let’s start off with the Eric Garner case
(NY Post) A Staten Island grand jury cleared an NYPD cop in the chokehold death of Eric Garner during his caught-on-video arrest for peddling loose cigarettes, the Staten Island district attorney confirmed Wednesday.
The panel voted a “no-bill” and dismissed all potential charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
The blockbuster decision capped weeks of investigation by the special grand jury, which was empaneled in September specifically to review evidence in Garner’s racially charged death.
A lot of people are trying to link this to the Ferguson case, but they couldn’t be more different. Garner may have been involved in a minor instance of breaking the law (peddling cigarettes), but, unlike Michael Brown, he didn’t just assault a store clerk, didn’t assault a police officer, didn’t try and take an officer’s gun, and didn’t charge the officer. Furthermore, Officer Darren Wilson, in the Ferguson incident, was alone. The police in Staten Island where there in force. To me, the video clearly shows the chokehold, and perhaps overzealous police officers. And possible criminal conduct.
But, Garner was also resisting arrest.
What we really do not have are the facts as presented to the Grand Jury, along with their reasoning for the “no-bill”. What about the use of body cameras for police
President Obama announced this week that, in response to Ferguson and other cases of cops killing unarmed black men, the White House would call for $75 million to make 50,000 body cameras available to police departments across the country.
But on Wednesday, a grand jury declined to indict New York police officers in the choking death of Eric Garner — a case in which there was footage. And the timing couldn’t really be worse for the White House.
The Washington Post goes on to note
Proponents of expanding the use of body cameras point to Rialto, Calif., where complaints against police officers fell by 88 percent a year after they were put into use in 2012. And more than anything, the use of technology to prevent more Fergusons has been something plenty of people with very different views of what happened could agree upon.
So, they can actually be helpful (it should be noted that it wasn’t a body camera used in the Eric Garner case, just someone filming). The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman goes deeper into saying that the policy of body cameras might be a bad one
Barak Ariel, a criminologist at the University of Cambridge, isn’t so sure about body cameras, either.
The technology is “surely promising, but we don’t know that it’s working,” Ariel told me. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve drugs until they’ve been studied extensively, he explained, and governments should take a similar approach with body-worn cameras. It’s a solution that has yet to be proven.
There’s lots more where that came from.
But, are the cameras worth the price-tag? In my opinion, heck yes. They surely won’t be perfect. Incidents will still happen. Let’s not forget that the Rodney King incident was filmed during the time of everyone getting their own video camera. The use of police car dash cams has reduced complaints against officers, has given police proof of their conduct during stops and other incidents, has shown the conduct of those stopped by police, and has also shown police engaged in illegal and/or over the line conduct. When the last happens, most police officers are held responsible.
Having body cameras is better than not having them. They cause police and citizens to generally act in a better manner. Not always. This is one Obama policy that Conservatives should get behind.