The introduction of body cameras to the police forces across the country was meant to be a step promoting transparency and helping provide evidence of both crimes in progress and of any potential illegal actions by the police officers themselves.
While in theory, the idea of body cameras sounds good, they leave much to be desired in practice — not because of any technological deficiency, but because of the practices of the human beings operating the devices and the people who control the footage after it’s been recorded.
How many times have you heard that an officer did not turn on their body camera when a disputed situation involving a civilian arises?
How many times have police departments refused to release relevant body camera footage when it is easily available and would provide confirmation of what actually happened and what was said during a police interaction?
New York Attorney General Letitia James addressed some of the issues surrounding body camera footage today when she announced on Twitter that henceforth her office would “proactively release body-worn camera footage as part of our investigation into police-involved civilian deaths,” whether local officials agree with her decision or not.
Attorney General James cites the discretion of local authorities as creating delays, causing confusion, and obscuring transparency in a law enforcement system that is under a considerable amount of justified criticism for appearing to be more interested in protecting police officers — whether they have followed proper procedures or not — than in pursuing actual justice.
Up until now, the release of footage has been up to the discretion of local authorities.
This process has caused confusion, delays, and has hampered transparency in a system that should be as open as possible.
I am changing that.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) September 20, 2020
Judging from the response to her Tweets, Attorney General James has made a move that much of the public heartily agrees with during these times of nationwide protests against police brutality and misconduct.
Videos should be auto-uploaded to a state server – take locals completely out and avoid "corrupted video".
— Maggie VA (@MaggieVA44) September 20, 2020
And should be fined appropriately, whatever the law will day
— kaeButafli (@KaeButafli) September 20, 2020
Congratulations to Letitia James for her bold action in helping reform police practices and for her attempts at making justice more just for everyone.
Even those who deny the systemic problems in America’s law enforcement practices and who buy into the “few bad eggs” theory of police misconduct can’t object to the recording of what actually transpires when officers interact with the public.
With everyone from bank tellers to supermarket cashiers working with constant video surveillance of their activities, what would be the problem with doing the same with law enforcement personnel.
After all, the only ones who could possibly object are those who are behaving badly and not following the law.
Let’s see every other Attorney General in the country make the same commitment!
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.