Atlanta Cops Caught Deleting Body Cam Footage, Failing To Activate Recording Devices
from the all-the-accountability-a-lack-of-internal-accountability-can-provide! dept
Officials are promising more transparency on the part of law enforcement, and greater trust between cops and the community. The body cameras “will strengthen trust among our officers and the communities they serve by providing transparency to officer interactions,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed this past week in announcing a purchase.
Oh, we were all so very young then. Look at us (including me!), pointing to the increasing adoption of body cameras as the ushering in of a new era of transparency and accountability. Didn’t take long for this lily to get unceremoniously de-gilded.
Cameras are great tools of accountability. They just can’t be controlled and maintained by cops. Two years after promising a better police force brimming with accountable officers steadily working to rebuild relationships with the citizens they police, Atlanta residents are being informed their servants/protectors are cheats and liars.
The audit looked at a random sample of 150 videos from officers’ body cameras. In more than half the cases, officers failed to activate and deactivate their cameras at the required time, the audit said.
Officers also miscategorized 22 of the videos, including a use of force incident. Auditors said mislabeling the videos may have led to some being deleted prematurely.
And the audit said that officers failed to capture two-thirds of dispatched calls between November 2017 and May 2018.
These results shouldn’t shock Atlanta residents or readers of this site. It doesn’t even shock Atlanta Police officials. Police Chief Erika Shields says she’s “not happy” with the results of the audit, but also “not surprised.” She excuses her officers actions in the worst possible way:
“I knew that what we are asking of officers is a culture shift.”
It’s your job to make sure the “culture” actually “shifts,” Chief Shields. That it hasn’t budged despite the addition of body cameras says a whole lot about the culture at the top of the PD. Whatever discipline Shields has meted out (she only says it happens, not how frequently or severely) clearly isn’t enough. And the culture that remains in place in the Atlanta PD is downright nasty.
Auditors identified 64 videos “that were deleted by users who should not have had been authorized to delete videos from the system” from November 2016 to 2018.
Officer use-of-force incident videos are supposed to be handled differently. Supervisors are supposed to upload them and they to be labeled properly in case the department or the public needs to review them later.
But the audit found APD supervisors routinely didn’t understand their responsibilities. One zone supervisor told auditors he was unaware that it was his job to upload use of force videos.
Officers know the system is flawed and abuse it. Those in charge of securing recordings officers may not want retained either don’t know what they’re doing or are playing dumb when questioned by auditors. At the top of the miserable heap is a chief who has allowed flagrant policy violations to occur under her watch.
An official worth a damn would never express their lack of surprise at this sort of behavior from underlings. There should be shock and dismay at these results, not a shrug of “They’re cops, what can you do?” emanating from the top person in Atlanta law enforcement. If that’s the official reaction, the next audit will just find more of the same.