Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cameras on Cops

Reason's December print edition has an updated column from last August entitled "Watched Cops Are Polite Cops." 

Some jurisdictions have done this.  Rialto, California saw complaints against officers drop by 88 percent.  Judge Shira Scheindlin. of the federal district court in Manhattan, ruled that officers in high complaint areas film their "stop and frisk" efforts in an effort to see if officers are complying with civil rights laws.

Ronald bailey, who wrote the piece, argues that police should be on board.  Complete photographic evidence can defend an officer against spurious complaints.  The knowledge that officers had filmed interactions may have contributed to the drop in complaints in Rialto.  Citizen recordings usually only start after tensions have risen and omit context.

Bailey warns that officers coming into homes with cameras on can violate civil rights,  "video of someone's metaphorical (or literal) dirty laundry is nobody else's business."  But safeguards, like those used on the reality show Cops, can protect the innocent.  Mandatory erasing of videos in the short term, unless needed for evidence, is also necessary.

Bailey also points out that people may act more civil when they know the camera is on them.

The issue is complex.  It certainly has the potential to invade privacy and violate rights, but also ensure that police act professionally at all times.

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