• author
    • Tom McMasters-Stone

    • May 12, 2015 in Columnists

    Smile, officers — you’re on candid camera

    There is controversy afoot about police cameras, and whether or not police officers should be able to review their camera footage before writing their reports.


    In my 30 years in the fire department, I worked with police officers and sheriff’s deputies almost daily. Additionally, for 25 or so of those years, I had peace officer powers as a fire investigator. The vast majority of law enforcement people are solid, and do their jobs conscientiously. They realize they are paid to do the right thing each and every time. Not all of them, though — just like any government category, there are cowboys, sloughs, and egotistical pricks.

    A few times, I have witnessed them huddling together to “get their stories straight.” A few times, I saw them abusing their powers, and going completely overboard as far as physical force.

    I once witnessed a police sergeant putting five guys down with five punches in quick succession, simply because they were being argumentative, but not threatening, and no weapons were involved.

    Have I seen police officers intentionally not seatbelt suspects in, with the face-disciplining waffle-screen sitting there waiting for an “unexpected” sudden stop? A couple times…

    Almost weekly, we see people in the news who have been released from prison because they were, after all, innocent.

    In South Carolina, a police officer has been charged with murder after a remote camera totally erased his story of the events that had occurred leading up to him firing his weapon.

    Rodney King. Trayvon Martin. Kimani Gray.

    How much evidence do we need?

    Dash-cams and remote cameras are a safeguard, a Jiminy Cricket sitting on the shoulders of those sworn to protect and serve. Letting those involved in incidents view the footage before writing their reports is tantamount to locking them in a room until they get their stories straight.

    Legitimate discrepancies in memory and perception between written reports and video can be resolved, and officers with nothing to hide should not worry about it. Methinks the others doth protest too loudly, including the law enforcement unions and fraternal organizations.

    Doing the right thing with nobody looking is what they pay public employees to do. Doing the right thing when somebody is or may be looking keeps honest people honest. Those who panic, most of whom should have been weeded out during the psychological evaluation process, will be in no position to remember that they may have Allen Funt, John Tucker and/or Dorothy Collins watching them.

    The credibility of law enforcement is on the line. The California Assembly panel got it right. So should the rest of the country.

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    Read more on this topic here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/14/1377729/-California-passes-intelligent-legislation-preventing-police-from-viewing-body-camera-footage

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