Body Cameras Save Another Law Enforcement Officer From A Bogus Sexual Misconduct Complaint

from the recording-devices-have-no-personal-agenda dept

As body cameras become the new normal in policing, there’s been a significant amount of pushback from the law enforcement community. There is some natural resistance from certain police officers — the same ones that probably resisted being saddled with dash cams and audio mics.

Generally speaking, though, it hasn’t been the rank-and-file or their superiors making the most noise. Instead, it’s been their supposed representatives: police unions. The heads of these groups contend that cameras will make it tougher for cops to do their jobs by distracting them, forcing them to second-guess their actions, and possibly causing camera-shy eyewitnesses to withhold information.

The most curious contention is that these will only be used to nail cops for wrongdoing. More than one police union official has called body cameras “gotcha” tools. Apparently, police brass and internal affairs departments have nothing better to do than views hours and hours of mundane footage in order to “catch” cops at their worst.

Completely ignored is the fact that a camera with the power to implicate is also a camera with the power to exonerate. Earlier this year, we covered just such a case, where an officer’s body camera caught an arrestee in the act of concocting a sexual assault story in hopes of walking away from a DUI arrest.

Deja vu. (via Popehat)

On Nov. 8, a KCSO deputy pulled over Margaret Ellen McElhinny under suspicion of driving under the influence.

Three other deputies came to the scene. During the stop, they began to question her.

McElhinny later accused one deputy of fondling her once she left her car for a sobriety check. Three of the four deputies wore body cameras, including the one she accused.

Investigators reviewed the recordings from the body cameras and found the deputy in question did nothing wrong.

Some of the body camera footage can be viewed at WBIR’s website. (I’m sorry… will be viewed. AUTOPLAY in effect.) The body cameras caught what the dash cams couldn’t.

“This allegation was said to have taken place at the side of the vehicle. Prior to body cameras, we would have had no video at the side of the vehicle. We are very pleased with what we have right now,” said [Knox County Sheriff’s Office Administrator Lee] Tramel.

Would the unions (and others) protesting these tools of accountability rather have seen a sustained (but bogus) complaint possibly harm the career of an officer who did nothing wrong? Is this the sort of sacrifice they’re willing to make to ensure police accountability remains minimal? If so, it’s yet another example of why police unions are viewed as saviors of bad cops rather than true representatives of the rank-and-file.

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Comments on “Body Cameras Save Another Law Enforcement Officer From A Bogus Sexual Misconduct Complaint”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: They don't need cameras for exoneration

Hence the reason they don’t consider that aspect of bodycams to be a worthwhile trade, because they stand to gain almost nothing, while standing to lose quite a lot.

If it’s the word of a cop over the word of a citizen regarding an accusation against a cop, innocent or guilty, the vast majority of the time the court/’Internal investigation’ is going to side with the cop, and dismiss the charges. Bodycam footage doesn’t really change this. If they were innocent, then bodycam footage isn’t going to somehow make them more innocent.

However, if they’re guilty of what they’re being accused of, suddenly bodycam footage becomes all sorts of problematic, as it’s no longer just ‘Citizen said X happened’ vs ‘Officer said Y happened’, there’s real evidence that can be examined, and it’s more difficult to just brush it under the rug.

Put simply, bodycam footage can help against bogus charges against police, but given how the deck is already stacked in their favor, it’s not like they really needed the help. At the same time though, it can be used to verify legitimate charges, and that is something the corrupt cops really don’t care for, hence the pushback.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: charge her

…I thought making a false statement to the police was a crime…

It is. In my area many years ago there was a report of a forcible rape on a college campus. The local media jumped all over it. A few weeks later the police reported the rape never happened and they were charging ‘filing a false police report’ against the reporting party. Did the local media jump all over that? NOPE!

Anonymous Coward says:

of course, the worry here is that rogue cops/departments/states/feds learn to fake this stuff, since it has the power to exonerate almost instantly. i can envision a time when the same footage is used to clear many cops. they’ll pass it around like a joint or a girlfriend.

god, i hate autoplay. so annoying and arrogant. i assume sites make more money by doing that, but i have no idea how that works.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Judge Judy

There is a case that was on one of Judge Judy’s classic collection where a recording completely exonerated a cop. This spoiled little brat thought she could get out of a ticket because her dad was a cop. She made all kinds of false accusations that the cop acted inappropriately. She got to speak first and really played the victim. When it was the cop’s turn he simply said that he had a recording of the entire stop. The girl nearly pissed herself. She had called her dad on her cell phone and wanted the cop to talk to him. He was very polite and simply told her that he didn’t want to take the call. Even though the girl got very loud and abusive he remained calm and gave her the ticket. The only reason he took her to court was that he wanted a letter of apology so he could get the report removed from his folder. When Judy asked him what he would do with any award he told her he would donate it to charity. She gave him the maximum $5,000. She told the girl to write the letter but she would read it first to make sure that it was proper. She also chewed her ass royally.

I know you will say this is just a TV show but all parties sign documents that make her decision legally binding. Judy was a real judge for many years. I wish there were more judges like her.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Judge Judy

I also knew that. This cop did not want any money. When this little bitch filed a false complaint it went into his folder and whenever he was being considered for any promotion it would bee seen whether there was any truth to it or not. In a competitive situation it could mean the difference of being passed over for a limited number of slots. The girl was legally obligated to write the apology. She should have already been charged with making a false report. Even if there was no possibility of any criminal charges she could face a civil action where she would probably lose. Then she could be held in contempt of a real court if she did not comply.

David says:

You don't know that.

Would the unions (and others) protesting these tools of accountability rather have seen a sustained (but bogus) complaint possibly harm the career of an officer who did nothing wrong?

The only reason the officer refrained from fondling her might have been the running cameras, so he missed out on adding a deterrent for future DUI offenses.

That reduces the efficiency of policing.

What do you think? Do I get that union job?

Zonker says:

The most curious contention is that these will only be used to nail cops for wrongdoing. More than one police union official has called body cameras “gotcha” tools.

You got that officers? Even your own unions believe that you are only capable of wrongdoing. Why else would they not see any potential that body cameras could also be used for exonerating evidence or displays of chivalry?

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, I think Whoever (Nov 30th, 2015 @ 3:25pm), and That One Guy (Nov 30th, 2015 @ 9:06pm), at the top here, nailed it perfectly.

Cops do not need physical evidence for exoneration, as exoneration for cops is almost automatic, no matter what sort of evidence might be presented for or against.

The Police Union people would not consider “exonerating videos” to be of any use at all, because, in the absence of irrefutable evidence that absolutely proves wrong-doing beyond a shadow of a doubt – like a “gotcha” cop-car dash-cam video of a cop shooting a kid 16 times – every cop is presumed to be completely innocent of all wrong doing, and thus has absolutely no need for “exonerating evidence” of any kind.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that today, cops are the only non-millionaire Americans that ARE presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

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