Thursday, November 16, 2017
BLM- Civil rights advocates demanded accountability from law enforcement agencies through the use of bodycams in the wake of the Ferguson riots. Police departments nationwide implemented bodycams at considerable expense to satisfy their critics and provide more “transparency” in law enforcement. The result? A new report from The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said that bodycams pose a “threat to civil rights.”
The report, “The Illusion of Accuracy: How Body-Worn Camera Footage Can Distort Evidence," was released on Tuesday, according to Newsweek. A big concern listed in the report is an officer's ability to watch the footage whenever they want, including before they write incident reports. “Unrestricted footage review places civil rights at risk and undermines the goals of transparency and accountability," Vanita Gupta, current leader of the Leadership Conference, a civil rights attorney, former ACLU director, and former acting assistant attorney general of the civil rights division under former President Obama.
The report claimed that an officer's memory of an event may be altered by watching bodycam video footage, and reports written by the officer about the incident would then also be altered. The problem appears to be that defense attorneys can't pick at minor differences between an officer's memory and what's recorded on video. It’s also a potent tool for exonerating officers falsely accused of misconduct.
The Leadership Conference called for police departments to institute "a clean reporting policy” where an officer would write an initial report before viewing the footage. Some policing experts, such as Lance LoRusso, disagree. LoRusso, a former police officer and current Atlanta attorney who represents police officers, said that police officers should view the body-cam footage before writing a report. "This specter that every time an officer looks at the video they’re going to lie and adapt their statement just is infuriating because we want the officers to write the most accurate report they can,” he said. Since one major purpose of bodycam footage is to keep all parties involved honest and “transparent,” the Leadership Conference’s one-sided approach doesn’t make any sense.
Civil rights groups don’t have a problem with bodycam footage until it’s used to exonerate a police officer, or shows that suspects and victims have threatened police, or behaved badly during a recorded incident. At that point, bodycams become a threat to civil and constitutional rights, according to Gupta’s assessment.