8/19/14 Cops and Cameras


The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri is just the latest fatal police encounter. 

The officer who pulled the trigger and witnesses at the scene tell vastly different stories [here, here].

Someone’s lying.

There’s an easy solution to discover the truth in such incidents. 

Patrol officers should be required to wear video cameras.  A video recording would help after-the-fact investigations. 

But there’s a bigger pay-off.  The use of small, wearable video cameras has been shown to reduce the number violent encounters.

The Rialto, California Police Department participated in an experiment in which officers were fitted with body cameras.  The results were stunning.  Use-of-force incidents dropped by 59 percent.  Even more dramatic was the nearly 90 percent reduction in complaints made against police officers. 

Fewer incidents.  Fewer complaints.

The fact of the matter is cops aren’t always right.  Nor are suspects always the instigator. 

The Rialto experiment shows that deterrence often rests on the self-awareness that one is being observed.   Studies show people — including cops and alleged perpetrators — behave better when they know they’re being watched.

Instead of militarizing police with discarded Pentagon weapon systems to respond to criminal acts [here, here, here, here, here, here].  Or in the case of Ferguson, Missouri — quelling public demonstrations following a tragic death — jurisdictions should instead outfit cops with cameras to help reduce violent encounters.

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