Tag Archives: body cameras

SC GOP Governor Nikki Haley Signs Bill Requiring Police to Wear Body Cameras

The above-embedded Associated Press video captured the moment last Wednesday when South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley signed S 47 into law, a bill requiring all police in the state to wear body cameras.

Governor Haley signed the bill alongside family members of Walter Scott, an unarmed African-American man who was fatally gunned down by North Charleston, SC Police Officer Michael Slager during an April 4 traffic stop over a malfunctioning taillight. Slager has since been fired and charged with murder over his role in the tragedy.

[RELATED AUDIO: Recording of Officer After Walter Scott Shooting Doesn’t Sound Remorseful]

According to The Post and Courier, the bill grants state law enforcement agencies a nine month grace period to obtain state funding and implement the body cameras. WYFF-TV notes that it also provides funding for the cameras and prohibits the footage taken by them from being obtained by the public through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Cato Institute’s Matthew Feeney wrote, “Among those permitted to access police body camera footage [under the South Carolina law] are: the subjects of a body camera footage, criminal defendants, civil litigants, and attorneys representing any of these people.”

The bill was introduced in December of 2014, but failed to gain traction until Walter Scott’s highly-publicized officer-involved death in April of 2015.

Said Governor Haley at the bill’s signing ceremony, “What did happen was we saw a sad tragedy, we saw a good man die when he didn’t have to, and we saw a few amazing things happen — we saw everybody step up and say, rather than being victims to this, we’re going to lift everyone up and make the state better, and that’s why this is a proud day. That’s why this is a good day, because this was about saying we don’t ever want a day like that to happen again… This is going to strengthen the people of South Carolina, this is going to strengthen law enforcement, and this is going to make sure that Walter Scott did not die without us realizing we had a problem.

I’m sure my brother is looking down and saying: ‘Good job. Good job, South Carolina,’” said Walter Scott’s brother Anthony Scott, according to The Aiken Standard.

Said Democratic State Senator Gerald Malloy of the law, “It is a great day in South Carolina, because we become the first state in the country that has a requirement for all law enforcement to end up wearing these body cameras.

Cleveland Police Union President Argues Against City’s New Body Cameras

Cleveland, OH- Steve Loomis, who was recently elected President of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association after losing the position in 2011, publicly criticized body cameras that the city’s police officers have been assigned to wear this year.

“It’s going to create more controversy than it’s going to solve,” Loomis told Cleveland’s News Channel 5. Loomis believes that video quality of the body cameras will be poor. “What they see on the video is going to be subjective, it’s not going to be clear video,” Loomis said. “The video in times of aggressive police work is terrible.”

According to WCBE.org, Loomis also argued that body cameras are unconstitutional. “You don’t think, in this day and age, and in the situation that we’re in here, that there’s a lot better ways to spend that money? And the video is not going to be conclusive in most cases, and it’s gonna actually cause more harm than good. And then there’s constitutional issues. You know, I don’t have the right to come into your house and videotape your house, that’s a public record. Imagine Tamir Rice – and those officers had body cameras on – and that happened so quickly, that that rookie officer forgot to push that button on that camera. Imagine that, what the outcry would be. Put the cameras in the cars, and let’s see how that works.”

Cleveland city councilman Steve Zone countered that “Any bit of information that you can get is good, regardless of what the quality of the video is.” The Cleveland City Council approved a bill last year authorizing the Cleveland Police Department to buy 1,500 body cameras for $2.4 million. Zone said that money for two thirds of the cameras has been allocated, with the remainder of the money coming from a recently passed $100 million bond issue.

Loomis told News Channel 5 he would rather see money spent on more cameras in police cruisers to offer a “wider perspective” of police situations, as well as microphones for officers to wear. Cleveland’s officers are expected to begin wearing the body cameras at the end of this month.

City of Baltimore Will Launch Online Database to Track Police Brutality

The City of Baltimore recently came under fire after The Baltimore Sun conducted a six-month investigation that uncovered the fact that, unbeknownst to most of its bureaucrats and politicians, the city has paid $5.7 million in police misconduct and brutality settlements over the past three years. The situation reached a boiling point after video, seen in the above-embedded player provided by WMAR-TV, emerged showing a police officer brutally beating a suspect for what seems to be no apparent reason. The controversy sparked an investigation by the United States Department of Justice, and city leaders have been scrambling to put together a series of reforms in an effort to tone down Baltimore Police Department’s violent reputation.

As a first step, the City of Baltimore will provide an online database to track the results of police misconduct lawsuits, mainly so that city officials will have a way to determine if specific officers are facing multiple complaints. City Solicitor George Nilson told The Baltimore Sun that the new system will allow city officials to identify which cops need additional training. The database will list all settlements, no matter the size, so that smaller payouts below the $25,000 mark requiring a signature by the mayor’s office will still be noticed by authorities.

Said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake about the new policy, “I was really perplexed that so many elected officials said they had no idea the city has been making these settlements. I want to make sure the public and elected officials have this information. Now there’s no excuse for not knowing.” Mayor Rawlings-Blake announced last month that the city would be hiring more Internal Affairs officers to hold police accountable and initiating a study on body cameras. She also granted Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts more power to crack down on corrupt cops.

According to CBS DC, the Baltimore City Council will vote next week on a bill that would require all city police officers to wear body cameras. However, citing legal issues, Mayor Rawlings-Blake said she will likely veto the bill. She told The Baltimore Sun, “I would rather be thoughtful and right than fast and wrong… The worst thing we can do … is to roll out a program that hasn’t been thought through, and unfortunately we are dangerously close to doing that now.”

She wants the Baltimore City Council to wait for the conclusion of her study on body cameras before writing and passing a bill, but claims that she does approve of implementing them. Said Mayor Rawlings-Blake, “I am 100 percent in support of police body cameras. And residents should know that no matter what happens during the City Council process, the city is going to have body cameras.” However, she feels that the current bill, which requires all police officers to wear body cameras, goes too far. “If I’m an officer working in the evidence control room, I need to wear a body camera?” she asked.

Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. Young dismissed Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s argument that the body camera bill is poorly and unlawfully worded, telling CBS Baltimore, “Absolutely not… It’s all in interpretation. It’s all political BS.”

As a part of the police reforms, officials will consider changes to the city’s controversial non-disclosure policy on police misconduct settlements, as victims are required to sign non-disclosure agreements that infringe on their freedom to speak about what happened to them. Those who speak out risk losing a large portion of their settlement. Opponents of this policy claim that it helps the city cover up abuses while infringing on the rights of those victimized by police brutality or misconduct.

Police Use Of Force Drops 60% When Officers Required To Wear Video Cameras

Rialto, CA- The Rialto Police Department, over the past year, has been experimenting with equipping body cameras to the 70 officers on its force. The initial results show a promising solution to the excessive use of force by officers.

The police chief in Rialto, Tony Farrar, is on record as stating, “ I think we’ve opened some eyes in the law enforcement world. We’ve shown the potential.”

This potential he speaks of is due to the scientific data that this experiment has yielded over the course of the last year. The body cameras were introduced on officers in February 2012, over the next twelve months total complaints filed against them dropped by a staggering 88%, with use of force by officers dropping by 60%.

With the cameras there has been an improvement in officer’s demeanor and tone towards those they serve. As Chief Farrar noted, “With a camera they are more conscious of how they speak and how they treat people.”

When those in a position of authority are watched they are less likely to abuse that authority. Chief Farrar says, “That’s just human nature. As an officer you act a bit more professional, follow the rules a bit better.” In addition it also helps protect officers from false accusations of excessive use of force.

Chief Farrar is providing a new paradigm for policing, taking a proactive approach rather than making excuses for his officers and toeing the line. To his credit he has a master’s degree from the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, from which stemmed the idea to utilize cameras.

By holding officers more accountable, expensive lawsuits and payouts can be avoided, making it fiscally, as well as socially responsible. Even the ACLU has come out in support of the move, saying that with proper oversight and accountability, even privacy concerns would be outweighed.

The scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that this program could be an effective and efficient model for nationwide police reform. If you would like to see a similar program implemented in your area, get in touch with your mayor/city council/county board and demand cameras on officers in your local jurisdiction.

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