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.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.
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.
"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.