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

Atlanta, Georgia, August 23, 2016:

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.

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Comments on “Atlanta Cops Caught Deleting Body Cam Footage, Failing To Activate Recording Devices”

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Kitsune106 says:


Apparently the cops never heard of the broken windows theory of policing. I mean, if they and politicians did, surely they would bring the same theory of small stuff leads to bad stuff and maximum law and order, just like how we need to hit small drug possessors hard to deter other criminals…..

ooohhh wait….

Discuss It (profile) says:

The police are not to be trusted

If there is one lesson life has taught me in my 50+ years, it’s that you cannot, and should not trust police of any stripe. I’ve only met two persons in LEO that I would trust, Rusty Valentine, of the Corpus Christi Police force (retired now) and — (redacted to protect him/her), an undercover FBI agent. Every one else I’ve had to interact with I suspected of being abusive or cooked. A few I knew were cookred and planted drugs or weapons of innocent people. I did what I could when I could with what I could prove.

I once called an ambulance, and as is usual in my area, a sheriff’s deputy was also called. I saw him and have it on video that they pocketed my Colt 1911 pistol and several gold coins.

Yeah, like I’m going to report that. I don’t need a big red bulls eye on the back of my head. I can buy another pistol and more gold, but I can’t purchase another life.

Most LEO are good people. The issue is when the good folks won’t turn in the bad ones. It’s hard to break loyalty with folks you work with, but it is worse to break the faith for those you work to protect. As long as there is even 5% of bad cops, I’m not going to trust you. So, if you are a cop, part of your job is to git rid of bad cops.

Bad cops make you less. We respect cops because we hold you to a higher standard. Not everyone is suited to be a cop. Only the best should be. Do not tolerate substandard policing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The police are not to be trusted

The moment they refuse to turn in the bad ones, they stop being good people. They’re now enabling, defending (up to and including killing people to do so) and supporting the rot actively and deliberately.

When police protect their child-rapists, thieves, murderers, scammers and assaulter friends because they are part of the same gang, it is because they not only approve but are no less guilty than whichever of their brethren who themselves performed the acts.

And that means all civilians have reason to be fearing for their lives the moment they see those lights or badges anywhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The police are not to be trusted

If so-called good Police cover for the bad ones, they are just as guilty and bad. It’s the Blue Line Gang. They have their own flag, and they cover for each other. It’s also why, when something big happens, all their camera’s somehow failed to record anything. All there seems to be is a far away Dashcam that can’t see anything worth seeing. Just what they want.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“I knew that what we are asking of officers is a culture shift.”

And you should replace every single one of them if their response to an independent ‘witness’ to their interactions with the public is to turn it off, or ‘accidentally’ label it saving a kitten from a tree instead of beating the mentally ill man within an inch of his life.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fuck the Police

All of them.

If any given officer isn’t committing the crimes then they’re helping cover another who is. They’re *all* part of the problem. Not one of them can be trusted.

The unions are a massive part of the problem. The solution seems to be to disband the police across the nation and replace them with a new set of law enforcement personnel called something other than “police”. Ban unions and start off with all the rules we now know we need to govern and restrict our law enforcement. Build in a system of public oversight and tie law enforcement income / continued employment to their behavior and ability to follow the rules. Eliminate the profit motive of forfeiture.

That One Guy (profile) says:

A few bad (orchards worth of) apples

And yet another case where where you’ve got rampant corruption, or, in the best case scenario, gross incompetence on the part of people who have guns as standard equipment.

Because holding people who can literally decide matters of life and death with almost zero risk on their part to no standards makes perfect sense.

And they wonder why people are increasingly distrustful of them and have ever decreasing levels of respect for them.

David says:

Simple solution

Who does not manage the complexity of using a camera cannot be trusted with a gun. Make camera training an inherent part of the training at a shooting range. If your camera misses the target, that’s at least as bad than if your bullet misses the target. If you are regularly lacking camera coverage, you lose access to a gun.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Simple solution

The Guns come out way too quickly. The PIGS are scared of their own shadows these days. They’ll pull the trigger without seeing any gun. You’re dead, they can’t find a gun and it’s OPS. On with their job and another day while you’re DEAD. Why they even carry billy clubs they don’t use them. Tasers, you might die? But whip out that gun first.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'Whoops, looks like that damning evidence was deleted.'

The cameras are fine, the problem is the people wearing them/’accidentally’ turning them off/deleting videos from them, paired with gutless and/or complicit supervisors who either can’t grow enough of a spine to enforce use or have their own reasons to want as little evidence as possible of what those under them are doing.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Cameras should be on any time the uniform is worn

Much of this can be fixed with technology.

Cameras with all-day battery life and capacity are now cheap.

The cameras should be sewn into the uniform with a motion sensor – they stay on from the moment the uniform is moved, and stay on for 15 minutes after the last movement. No "off" switch.

Cameras are charged and downloaded overnight; putting on a uniform with a less-than-fully-charged battery is a firing offense.

And all videos should be saved for a minimum of 2 years.

(I hear YouTube will save all the videos you like, for free.)

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Cameras should be on any time the uniform is worn

…and every citizen who interacts with an officer (and their attorneys and heirs) should have the automatic right to obtain a copy of video from 15 minutes before the start of the interaction until 15 minutes after the end.

Who watches the watchers? The citizens do.

Ed (profile) says:

I say this every time something with police comes up: go after their pensions! If you want police culture to change, hit them where it hurts. Currently, they don’t give a damn because any punishment, no matter how rare, is paid for by the taxpayers, not the cops. Stop suing the city, attack their pensions and their unions. Bankrupt the damn police unions, bankrupt their pensions! Then, maybe, the “police culture” will change and they will actually be there to “protect and serve” instead of being nothing but a self-serving bully patrol.

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