If You Can't Trust A Cop... 13-Year Veteran Of Seattle PD Makes Body Cameras For Cops
from the accountability-is-always-a-good-thing dept
The NYPD may be forced to wear body cameras in the near future, something that makes Bloomberg's veins pulse and eyes start twitching. For some reason, Bloomberg is convinced all these cameras will do is make "his" cops look bad. It's a shame he won't look at the actual results of cops wearing cameras -- other cities that have implemented the technology have noticed a marked decrease in both the deployment of excessive force and number of citizen complaints. It's a win for both sides: the public and their public servants.
But if Bloomberg can't trust the conclusions reached by other PDs, chances are he won't trust the opinion of Steve Ward, a 13-year veteran of the Seattle Police Department.
Steve Ward doesn't care about reasons why the cameras are worn, just that police wear them. Now he wants to put a similar version into the public's hands.Some police personnel express reluctance to wear body cameras, not necessarily because they're bad cops, but because being asked to wear one implies that they are. This same sort of resistance occurred 20 years ago, during the rollout of dashcams. Steve Ward, however, had an uncommon take on the new technology, and on cops and cameras in general.
Six years ago, Ward created VieVu, a company that produces a rugged, virtually tamper-proof camera that officers wear that records audio, video, time and GPS information.
Since then, the former Seattle police officer claims VieVu is now the market leader in wearable cameras designed for police use. The company claims 3,000 police departments in 16 countries use them.
He got the idea back mid 90s when the 13-year police veteran was part of a magazine profile on bicycle cops and a photographer strapped a camera on him.If a cop views "capturing everything" as a positive thing, he immediately stands out as an anomaly. But actual experience with the cameras -- especially the calming effect their use has on angry citizens -- has turned plenty of law enforcement officers into believers. Here's what representatives from two Connecticut police departments had to say about the cameras.
"I realized that this is just like those in-car cameras that were just catching on, but the cop wears it," Ward said. "It means you capture everything a cop does, not just the 5-percent that happens in front of the car."
Ward calls it his "ah-ha" moment.
Some New Haven officers have purchased body cameras on their own, Esserman said. It’s a stark contrast from a time when many officers were highly skeptical of dashboard cameras.VieVu's backend is where Ward's product earns its trustworthiness. Even though officers can control what's recorded via the sliding lens cover, they can't edit or delete footage once its uploaded. This may allow an officer to selectively record interactions with the public, but in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety, the officer has to make the decision before the interaction begins. Any complaint filed by citizens about excessive force or abuse should have some corresponding footage. If it doesn't, (ideally) this lack of footage should cast serious doubts on the officer's narrative of the event, especially since he or she had the opportunity and technology to record the interaction, but chose not to.
“Years ago it was imposed on officers; now it seems many officers think it’s in their best interest,” he said. “I think the world has changed and people are much more comfortable with cameras than they used to be.”
In Branford, Halloran said body cameras have been embraced by his officers.
“Now the attitude of the officers are, if there’s a camera broken down, ‘Well, I want a camera. I’m not going on the road without a camera,’” Halloran said.
The bottom line here is this: if Bloomberg and Chief Kelly (and others like them) can't trust the opinions of a federal court judge or private citizens, surely they can take the word of other cops, right? Or do they trust no one but New York's Finest? When a ex-cop's making body cameras, it's more than simply filling a market. It's an implicit statement that cameras are good for cops -- that it's not simply about forcing bad cops to generate their own damning evidence.
If these cops can't trust other cops, there's no way they view the public as worth respecting… or protecting.