The Case for Cameras
I don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong in this case—a man, a double amputee, is suing LPD for stuff he alleges happened during a traffic stop—though I do have my suspicions. The fact is I wouldn’t have to have suspicions at all if the police officers on scene had been outfitted with cameras. Heck, in this situation even audio would be a huge help. There’s no good reason why every police interaction—and certainly those involving pursuit or drawn weapons—shouldn’t be recorded. Recordings protect officers and the public in the very definition of a win-win situation.
I’m not sure just how much video recording LPD does at this point. Public Safety Director Tom Casady has discussed public place cameras on occasion, and he understands the value of video in police work. But to my knowledge LPD doesn’t record most interactions with suspects. Several police departments around the country have fitted officers with various types of cameras. In one California city, putting cameras on officers led to an 88% drop in complaints against officers over 12 months, and officers wearing cameras were half as likely to use force during an arrest. Clearly cameras make an impact.
Don’t mistake my desire for cameras on every cop with a larger desire for an expansion of the surveillance state. Quite the opposite, in fact. The need for recordings of police interactions is about balancing power in a very specific component of the relationship between police and those they serve. Much could be written about that, but let’s keep it simple: minimizing he-said-she-said lawsuits like this is a good thing for everybody.
I wonder what the general public’s opinion of this sort of thing is. My guess is that they more or less support the idea right up until they’re asked to pay for it. That’s a lot of cameras, not to mention all of the secondary costs associated with data retention. The dollars add up pretty quickly. Fortunately LPD seems to be relatively tech savvy so hopefully they have a good foundation for managing an influx of video.
I wonder what you all think. Should LPD go all Robocop and record all or certain types of interactions?