Should Police Have To Wear Cameras And Have Dash-Cams?
Governor Jay Nixon imposed a midnight to 5am curfew for Ferguson, Mo. Most obeyed the curfew. Even the head of the New Black Panthers urged people to obey it. Obviously, there is some concern regarding people’s right to peaceably protest, but, then, not all decided to do that
(Fox News) Police fired smoke and tear gas canisters early Sunday in an effort to disperse several dozen protesters who defied a curfew in a St. Louis suburb where a black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer last week.
The Missouri Highway Patrol said that seven people were arrested and one man had been shot at the site of the protest in Ferguson, Mo. Missouri State Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson said that the shooting victim was in critical condition and had been rushed to a hospital by protesters.
Johnson said the use of tear gas was precipitated by concerns about people who’d broken into a barbecue restaurant and taken position on the roof overlooking approaching police. Another concern involved a man flashing a handgun who appeared in the middle of the street as armored vehicles approached. Johnson says someone fired at a patrol car, but no officers were injured.
There were numerous reports of people firing guns and threatening police. And breaking into yet another business is not protesting peaceably. Anyhow, Mark Steyn has an interesting point
The most basic problem is that we will never know for certain what happened. Why? Because the Ferguson cruiser did not have a camera recording the incident. That’s simply not credible. “Law” “enforcement” in Ferguson apparently has at its disposal tear gas, riot gear, armored vehicles and machine guns …but not a dashcam. That’s ridiculous. I remember a few years ago when my one-man police department in New Hampshire purchased a camera for its cruiser. It’s about as cheap and basic a police expense as there is.
That appears amongst the wider view about the militarization of the police, while noting that the Ferguson PD has riot gear, tear gas, camouflage uniforms, and other military gear. But no dash cams.
More interestingly, Vox, usually a hive of idiocy with their Voxsplaining, runs a cogent and thought provoking article
If police officers were required to wear body cameras, questions about their conduct – like the ones that have arisen in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting – could be avoided.
The devices are small cameras that can be attached to a police officer’s uniform or sunglasses or worn as a headset. Such a camera could have fully captured the entire confrontation between Brown, an 18-year-old black man who was unarmed at the time of the shooting, and Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.
It is an excellent point, and not just for Ferguson, but law enforcement around the country. Much like dash cams, body cameras could provide the reality of what happens, both video and audio.
The major argument against these cameras is that they could be fairly expensive for police departments around the country. In New York City, the cameras could cost $450 to $900 a piece. That could add up to $32 million for the entire New York City Police Department, according to Gothamist. For all police departments across the nation, the cost would be multitudes higher.
Stanley argues that the cameras are worth the cost and could actually save police departments money by protecting them against lawsuits. “In an era when police are obtaining very expensive, high-tech military weaponry that they don’t need, it’s silly to argue that this important technology that can serve as an important check in society on frequently abused police power shouldn’t be a priority,” he says. “The cost of one expensive citizen lawsuit against police can pay for a lot of cameras.”
They could also make sure that Bad Behavior by officers, and, let’s face it, there are always bad apples, plus some simply make mistakes in the heat of the moment. Don’t we all? They could also make sure that many who act more as People Of Authority tone it down and act more as officers sworn to Serve And Protect.
Obviously, there is concern over law enforcement recording everything, in violation of the 4th Amendment. The Vox article links to an ACLU report on the types of policies that would provide proper use of cameras, which mentions “officer accountability” quite often. I do not necessarily agree with it all (such as the report noting that SWAT should not wear them), but the use of these cams would certainly help, much as dash-cams have.
What are your thoughts?