Failures

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
body cameras, evidence, police



Cop Arrested, Fired After Wife Captures His Abusive Actions On His Own Body Camera

from the accidental-sting-operation dept

This is one of the strangest "but for video" cases ever. We know many cops are hesitant to clip body-worn cameras on themselves for a variety of reasons. The official statements always express concern about privacy, as though people interacting with public servants somehow believe these interactions are private. Others show concern for police officers' privacy, as though the public is really hoping to FOIA footage of officers sitting in the break room or using the restroom.

Deep down, everyone knows the cameras are a tool of accountability, albeit one that's far from perfect. Body camera footage frequently goes "missing" when force is deployed questionably. And it's completely possible to make the footage subjective with strategic body positioning and constant yelling of exonerative phrases like "Stop resisting!"

So, it's accountability in its infancy, run through a layer of law enforcement-friendly filters (footage is controlled by police officers and often sheltered from FOIA requests). But it's much better than what we had before, where all action had to take place in front of stationary dashboard cameras.

Still, there are plenty of bugs -- both those inherent to the system and those created by law enforcement resistance -- to be worked out. We've seen cops damned by their captured footage and we've seen officers exonerated by footage that contradicts arrestees' complaints.

What we haven't seen before is a camera being activated by someone other than the cop in possession of it. And we definitely haven't seen any situations where the footage captures off-duty violence. This is a new one, and it's likely to lead to another "privacy" discussion by the time it's all sorted out. (via PoliceMisconduct.net)

A North Charleston Police officer was arrested for assaulting his wife Sunday after police say the incident was captured on his body camera. Hanahan Police say the officer, Nicholas Palumbo was arrested early Sunday morning.

According to an incident report, Palumbo's wife told him she wanted a divorce. The report states Palumbo became very irate and pushed his wife to the ground in their kitchen. Police say after the altercation started Palumbo's wife went into the bedroom and turned on his body camera.

According to the report, Palumbo came into the room, pinned his wife to the bed and threatened to strike her in the head with his fist while shaking her. His wife told investigators she was in great fear for her safety and the safety of her children. The report states she did not know where her husband had gone and was afraid he would return home and cause physical harm to her.

I'm not sure which part is more amazing: the forethought of the abused spouse to activate the camera or the fact that the footage was actually viewed by someone at the police department.

We know officers protect officers first. Perhaps being the wife of an officer grants you more attention and respect than a random civilian with a list of allegations. Whatever the case is, the department viewed the footage and arrested the officer. Even more surprising, the officer was immediately fired. I guess this decision was made easier by his bail requirements, which forbade him from possessing guns or ammo -- something every on-duty cop generally has on them or easy access to.

It's a petard-hoisting of sorts and definitely an anomaly in the pantheon of body-worn cameras. No doubt other cops with the same domestic issues will be keeping a closer eye on their issued gear during their off-duty hours. And there will definitely be challenges to the evidence, should this go to trial.

Arguments will be made about surreptitious recordings being used to fire a police officer, but those shouldn't get too far. South Carolina is a one party consent state when it comes to recordings. The fact that it was recorded in a private home (rather than in a public area) makes it a bit more complicated, but the recording should be treated no differently than the spouse's oral testimony. The recording just makes it a lot tougher to challenge the spouse's domestic abuse allegations.

Whatever happens, it's one for the "but for video" record books: body worn camera as the prosecution's star witness in a domestic assault case.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2017 @ 3:37am

    "I'm not sure which part is more amazing: the forethought of the abused spouse to activate the camera or the fact that the footage was actually viewed by someone at the police department. "

    should really read "that the footage was actually viewed by someone at the police department that didn't immediately bury it"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ThaumaTechnician (profile), 20 Apr 2017 @ 4:34am

      Re:

      Me, I was going to say that "...that the cops actually arrested another cop."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 20 Apr 2017 @ 5:47am

      Re:

      It's surprising they fired him rather than re-accommodating him to a different police department.

      Hopefully the wife can get a protective order before her abusive spouse re-accommodates her.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2017 @ 5:55am

      Re:

      "should really read "that the footage was actually viewed by someone at the police department that didn't immediately bury it""

      Perhaps she didn't give them a choice? "Arrest his ass or I put this footage on you tube and call you assholes out by name" would have done the trick. Especially if she explained right off the bat that the copy they were looking at was the same copy her lawyer received.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    D.C. Pathogen (profile), 20 Apr 2017 @ 6:42am

    More to it?

    Perhaps the wife and the police chief.......

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2017 @ 8:34am

      Re: More to it?

      Just the chief? Maybe its the "rest" of the force as well?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 21 Apr 2017 @ 4:24am

      Re: More to it?

      That's pretty much what I figured. She wants to leave him, and such a desire often catalyzes with opportunity. And someone with either better social or hierarchical standing in the police office would be an understandable choice, maybe connected with some socializing event.

      It really seems unusual for such evidence collected under such unusual circumstances to lead to such results so fast without an actual involved interest exceeding common decency.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2017 @ 6:44am

    ordinarily this only happens to a cop the other cops don't like, but hoo nose this time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Any Mouse, 20 Apr 2017 @ 6:45am

    Domestic Violence and Cops...

    Domestic Violence is one of the few crimes that cops don't normally get a pass on. If you hit your wife (and she tells someone) you're likely done as a cop.

    While this might lead to some thoughts about privacy and body cameras it might also just be dismissed as "he was hitting his wife".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 20 Apr 2017 @ 7:17am

      Re: Domestic Violence and Cops...

      This. Cops are protective not only of other cops, but of other cops families. Including wives.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2017 @ 7:42am

      Re: Domestic Violence and Cops...

      Ha! Actually, police-based domestic violence getting a pass is so common, it's a bloody TV Trope, and every time we read of some police officer killing an unarmed person or getting caught on film behaving more like a perpetrator than a protector, we always, always, always hear about how there was some talk of domestic abuse of wives or girlfriends in the cop's past, but mostly he got a slap on the wrist or the charges were dropped. In a perfect world, getting caught waving your gun at your wife or girlfriend should ban you from carrying, let alone from being a cop, but we live in a far from perfect world.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2017 @ 9:34am

        Re: Re: Domestic Violence and Cops...

        I was going to make this very point. I'm a volunteer for a women's shelter, and while my work for them is related to IT and telecommunication security, I've had too many conversations to count with staff over the years.

        One of the things I've learned from those conversations is that domestic violence in the families of police officers is epidemic. Nobody is sure what the numbers really are, because so many of the cases get denied, buried, or lost...but everyone is sure that it's much worse than police will admit.

        Another thing I've learned is that cops involved in DV won't hesitate to abuse their police powers -- on or off duty. They'll harass, intimidate, stalk, vandalize, steal, assault -- anything they can get away with, and that's nearly everything. One of the longtime staff told me that they worry about cops far more than drug dealers or pimps.

        Cops will defend each others' families -- but not from other cops.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Apr 2017 @ 7:34am

    We Got Cameras, Too.

    There are these cool things called "phones" than can record stuff pretty easily if you practice setting it up when your abusive @-hole of a spouse isn't home, or you can buy an inexpensive recorder. Bill O'Reilly found this out when several of the young women he sexually harassed got him on tape, which must have blown his 80s-based mind.

    So the police have control of their own video cameras and are trying to hide what they do behind protective laws: oooo-kay, be that way. We'll record you guys ourselves with apps that send the image into the cloud so it can't be deleted easily.

    Accountability can be obtained when you are of the mindset that someone is out to get you, and really, most Americans aren't quite there yet. Most of us are happy with the way society treats us on sight and feel too safe to start thinking about surveillance being our friend. That's why so many black people being killed by the police are being caught on camera by other black people: they are in that place where they know someone is out to get them and they are using their phones. That's why we get so many wacky Russian dash-cam antics on youtube, because every Russian knows their police will abuse them and steal from them if they can get away with it. They all have cameras, surveillance working *for* instead of *against* them for once.

    Abused wives, take note. Use that camera for more than texting your friend that you accidentally bumped into a door, so don't be upset when you see my shiner. Get the punch in the face on camera instead, and good luck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Digitari, 20 Apr 2017 @ 10:01am

      Re: We Got Cameras, Too.

      The flaw in this logic is that Most abusive husbands that I've beat up did not allow the wife to have a phone period let alone a phone that has a camera. If the abused wife has a phone, she could be texting/calling other men.Controlling husbands just cannot stand that idea or take that chance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 20 Apr 2017 @ 11:47am

    The discussion about consent is bogus here

    Because it happened. We have proof. Even it it was a state that requires two party consent and a platypus singing duets with a parakeet tough noogies, this is a "bad hombre' who belongs in prison.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    My_Name_Here, 20 Apr 2017 @ 6:43pm

    This is why I can't stand body cameras. What, do cops suddenly owe you civility 24 hours a day, even when not on the job? It's thanks to idiots like Cushing who celebrate whenever a cop happens to look bad, which is why police look out for one another in the first place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Howard, Cowering, 21 Apr 2017 @ 6:23am

      Re: Owed civility

      Yes, they do. And you do, too. Civility is what makes society function.
      That you are apparently unaware of this is a sad commentary on your early and continuing socialization, and I strongly urge you to seek and obtain professional therapy to correct your deficiency in this area.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        My_Name_Here, 22 Apr 2017 @ 9:27pm

        Re: Re: Owed civility

        Please note the fake nick. Seems the Techdirt staff is getting more and more desperate for views. Alexa shows a steady decline over time, and a trend towards a narrower, mostly American audience. Apparently the strident anti-government drivel ain't working out. So they resort to trolling you with fake nicks!

        Congrats Mike, you win at the internet!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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