Minneapolis Police Filming Their Own Work To Show Critics

from the good-move dept

We’ve had tons of stories about police arresting people for filming them. And we’ve seen plenty of other stories about mobile phone cameras being used to document and share evidence of police overreacting (especially at various protest scenes). However, the folks at On The Media had a great story recently about how the police in Minnesota are filming themselves when they deal with protests and then releasing the raw video footage in response to footage from others.


In the case above, it involved Occupy protestors using video footage of police arresting journalists. However, the police’s own footage put the situation in a bit more context, including showing the police clearly reading out warnings to the crowd that if they don’t help police remove obstructions in the plaza, that they will need to take enforcement action. Does this absolve the actions of the police? Perhaps not, though it may depend on where you sit. However, it is a really interesting strategy, and one that I think actually reflects a very positive development. Rather than hiding from cameras, the police can (and should) use cameras to their own advantage as well.

Amusingly, however, in the story, the police chief notes that the film in question was done by crime scene videographers, who are a little too focused on closeup shots, not knowing quite how to take wide shots that might show the scene in a bit more detail to provide additional context.

Of course, the police chief, Janee Harteau, isn’t fully enlightened. While she does say that officers should always assume they’re being filmed (and mentions permanent cameras in the city, as well as squad car cameras), she still complains that people with mobile phone cameras sometimes “interfere with an officer’s ability to do their job.” She doesn’t really elaborate, beyond saying that police have a job to do in protecting the public. She does say that “the officer’s word doesn’t mean as much as it used to” if there isn’t a video. I’m not sure why that’s a bad thing. If there isn’t more evidence, isn’t it only proper to give the testimony less weight? Either way, I do think the overall idea of police filming themselves (and releasing that video) is a definite step in the right direction, and one that I hope other police departments start using.

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Comments on “Minneapolis Police Filming Their Own Work To Show Critics”

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22 Comments
:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Too Often

Too often I have heard 1st hand accounts from friends where the police video which would have exonerated them; primarily because it disagreed with lying police officers’ testimony; was mysteriously absent during their case–having been erased by accident or aliens or somesuch.

I will treat police video the same as any other propaganda–they’ll only show what makes them look good. (eg cherry-picking/torturing the scientific data.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Too Often

The law should compel police to release all footage and any absent footage should be regarded as gross negligence or an intentional obstruction of justice and should automatically absolve any claimed charges by the police and should get the police in trouble (for gross negligence) in situations where police are being accused of something.

It’s amazing, the punishment for assaulting a regular citizen is less than the punishment for assaulting a police officer.

Trenchman says:

Re: Re: Too Often

There a few problems with the idea that they have to release footage. What if there isn’t any footage, but the accused says that there is? How do the police prove there isn’t? Does the case get thrown out because they couldn’t prove there is no video for them to not show? I don’t think that will work out very well.

But, I do agree with the fact that police should still be citizens and shouldn’t be getting special treatment. I”m mostly annoyed by police dogs though. You get charged for killing a police officer if you kill a police dog because it attacked you. I’m just wondering if they’d charge a person for the same thing if it was a human police officer?

Anonymous Coward says:

“If there isn’t more evidence, isn’t it only proper to give the testimony less weight?”

Then what’s the point of a police officer, especially, ones who are on patrol and regularly intervene in situations where their word is the only evidence? I agree that dishonest and abusive police officers is a huge problem that needs to be fixed, but saying that police testimony should hold less weight absent of any other evidence undermines their entire role in society and is going too far in the opposite direction.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Here’s the thing: under our legal system, we have the presumption of innocence. In theory, before we can convict someone, we need evidence that establishes that person’s guilt beyond any reasonable doubt.

Police officer testimony is particularly critical because people do tend to trust it; in many cases, it can make the difference between a conviction and an acquittal. In many ways, police testimony is held on a higher level than that of ordinary citizens, or even elected officials. (I mean, seriously…if a congressman is giving testimony in a legal case, does anyone assume that they’re telling the truth?) Given that some percentage of police officers are dishonest and abusive, I think it’s also a huge problem that their testimony is taken so seriously.

In a perfect world, we’d have a much higher level of oversight and accountability for police officers, but we don’t live in a perfect world. If there’s no evidence for something beyond the word of a police officer, then no…I don’t think we should give their word much weight. Or, if we continue to give more weight to police testimony, we should take stronger steps to ensure that police officers who lie in court are never given the chance to lie again, or even necessarily to work as police.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“we should take stronger steps to ensure that police officers who lie in court are never given the chance to lie again, or even necessarily to work as police.”

This is the proper response to police dishonesty. To give their testimony less weight would undermine the entire role of the police. They should be held to a higher standard of integrity as a result, yes, but the testimony itself cannot be treated the same as any other individuals. While I can see that idea being effective in a few, high-profile cases, it would render the police completely ineffective in dealing with crimes whereupon they are the only available witness. Why bother driving safely when you can just say that the police officer who booked you is lying?

mattarse (profile) says:

Re: Re:

In my experience the police are more likely than the ordinary citizen to lie, either direct or by omission. Thus their testimony should have less weight when there is nothing to corroborate what they are claiming. If there is any non-involved witness then I will give their testimony more weight than the police.
It is probably not true for everyone, but in all of my dealings with the police they have been power hungry, lying sacks of shit.

Michael says:

Re: I'm not so sure about being filmed

I’m assuming your a cop here, and this is the problem: In situations where police are allowed to use force, you ALWAYS seem to use the MAXIMUM amount of force you can, rather than using the maximum amount needed. I have seen over and over where the police ARE justified in getting physical, but they use FAR more force than is actually required to handle the situation. There is a certain amount of rage that seems to erupt as if police have no ability to just do the job and leave their ego at home. Until this stops (and I know it won’t) justified or not, a lot of police are nothing but legalized thugs.

william (profile) says:

“the officer’s word doesn’t mean as much as it used to”

Well, duh? Police used to be have better names for themselves and have more respect from the general public.

And who’s the one ruining the good name of polices? According to the police, it’s those darn layperson equipped with smart phones and the digital cameras that’s recklessly endangering life of police officers and interfere with their jobs on public property by exposing their incompetence.

Trenchman says:

This is why I don't trust people.

I’ve been to too many protests, and know too many protesters, to believe them in what they did or didn’t do legally. I’ve seen too many videos, no personal experience on this one, of police officers doing things they shouldn’t to outright trust them. The problem is, that people suck, they’re the reason why I hate everybody.

Dementia (profile) says:

However, the police’s own footage put the situation in a bit more context, including showing the police clearly reading out warnings to the crowd that if they don’t help police remove obstructions in the plaza, that they will need to take enforcement action.

I wasn’t aware it was within the power of the police to order people to help them remove obstructions.

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