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We’ve seen lots of bodycam footage of officer-involved shootings in the last year or so since the Michael Brown shooting. As more and more police departments video officer interactions with the general public, we’re getting better and better intel on what’ “really” goes down when the cops send lead flying. I put the word “really” in quotes because context is key; action footage can be extremely misleading. In fact, I reckon the number of “bad shoots” now is a lot smaller than the number of police murders in days gone by. But despite the new technologically-enhanced accountability, there’s still a police culture of coverup and contempt for the rule of law. Here’s proof [via photographyisnotacrime.com] . . .

Three teens mistakenly walked up to the home of a New Jersey state trooper at 2 a.m. last Sunday and began knocking on the door, thinking it was their friend’s home, who lives on the same block.

But when a man on the other side of the door began yelling and cursing at them, they realized they had the wrong home and began walking back to their car.

When the angry man stepped out of the home, they began running and hopped in their car.

And when they saw him aiming a gun with a laser pointer towards them, they stepped on the accelerator to make their escape down the street in front of the home.

But the off-duty trooper, whose name is Kissinger Barreau, stepped into the street and fired three shots, including one that struck the tire.

And that’s when things got seriously squirrelly for the Garden State teens . . .

About a mile-and-half away from the trooper’s home, once they believed they were safe from the crazy gunman, they stopped the car and one of the teens called his mom to tell her what had happened. He then called police to tell them what had happened.

Minutes later, when the teens noticed police helicopter and police dogs conducting a search in the area, they figured the cops were looking for the trigger-happy gunman.

But then they found themselves surrounded by cops, who searched and handcuffed them before leaving them in the back of a patrol car for hours on accusations that they had attempted to burglarize his home.

They were then driven down to Sparta police headquarters where they were photographed and placed in different cells.

Then they were transported to State Police Barracks where they were handcuffed to a steel bench for five hours before they were interrogated.

During that interrogation, police kept trying to get the teens to say they drove the car towards the cops, which, of course, would have made him fear for his life and justify the shooting.

But the teens just wouldn’t take the bait.

“That’s the exact opposite of what we were trying to do. We were just scared and trying to get out of there with our lives,” Barkhorn told the local news site.

The teens were eventually released when the cops confirmed that they did have a friend living on the same block and realized they were not going to admit to something they did not do.

Is it a coincidence that this blatant abuse of police power went down in New Jersey, a state where gun rights go to die? Maybe so. But it’s certainly true that NJ troopers are a law unto themselves, for themselves, armed both on and off duty. The question is: are police body cams doing anything to reverse this unaccountable Only Ones attitude that you find amongst police in states where the Second Amendment is ignored, defiled and destroyed? And, of course, elsewhere (*cough* Waco biker shooting *cough*).

57 Responses to Question of the Day: Are Police Bodycams a Boon or a Bandaid?

  1. Police have largely brought such things as body cams, gun cams, dashboard cams, etc… upon themselves. Before there was no recourse for citizens who were abused in various ways. Certainly the majority of police involved shoots are likely justified, but at the very least increased accountibility may change the cultures of many police departments when consequences are created for abuse of power.

    • If “driving a car at an officer” is a crime (and .. isn’t it?) .. then falsely reporting someone “driving a car at an officer” is a false reporting of a crime, minimum. Not to mention Attempted Murder, as they victims (the teens) had neither harmed nor broached his castle, nor threatened him with harm, nor stolen any of his property. Going to the wrong door isn’t a capital crime. The local citizens should not let up until captain bulletstorm is in cell.

      There should be real and onerous punishments for any LEO who lies about the events of an encounter, starting with summary termination from the force, and then local and IRS investigation of their finances. Those simple benchmarks will dial back an Enormous amount of the abusive bs out there.

      • Overall, I think the cameras are a boon for both “sides” of the equation. Rational officers and citizens alike will be more likely to behave rationally/reasonably if they know that they are being “watched” and second-guessed, and in the rare cases when one of the people involved in an incident does something highly irrational, there will be proof of it, and what drove the (otherwise irrational-appearing) response. This will be an overall plus for society whether we are talking about a Michael Brown or Michael Slager incident.

        However, for citizens to have faith in them, the cameras have to be near-completely reliable and not be able to be switched-off by police, and any futzing with the camera feed or video records by either side must be grounds for charges, dismissal of charges against a defendant, and/or civil awards, whichever is at stake (call it the “nuclear option”; if anything goes wrong with the camera at a critical moment, the person or entity operating/wearing the camera or causing the interruption in the camera feed automatically loses in court). This must be true for cops as well as citizens who might attempt to block/damage the camera, disable it through technological means (jamming), or “loss”/destruction of the video record (such as chain-of-custody problems, or burning a patrol car to destroy a video record contained within it).

  2. Bad example. No cop, or anybody for that matter, would wear a body camera in their own home at 2am. I know any footage that I film at that hour would certainly not be G-rated or wife approved.

    • In this case I don’t see how it matters anyway. Even if the kids had been attempting to break in, there’s no justification whatsoever for shooting at their car — in a neighborhood, mind you — while it’s out in the street driving away.

  3. In the long run, police body cams will reduce unnecessary use of force by cops and also bogus excessive force claims by suspects. That’s all well and good, but by themselves, cameras can’t change the police culture. That’s going to require a lot of work and needs a whole generation of bad cops to retire.

    Maybe police departments should start by examining their recruiting policies. Hiring better people and making sure that they’re not poisoned by the “thin blue line” mentality would be a great way to begin.

    • That’s only if the cameras are operational and the video captured isn’t “lost”, corrupted, destroyed, beyond the retention period, or otherwise unavailable. Keep in mind that this is hardware and will have a certain MTBF, whether the failures are natural, accidental, or deliberate. Another issue is access to the video and it’s use within the courtroom.

    • Yep I think it will be a net win. Too many cellphone videos of cops taking down a suspect without showing what the suspect did to be taken down…. Usually because when the truth comes out it doesn’t look very good for the suspect.

    • “. . . cameras can’t change the police culture.” The cameras themselves can’t do so; but, the Chiefs can. When citizens complain Internal Investigations will look at the tape and decide whether the complaint is valid; and, if so, whether they can cover-it-up. If they can’t, then the Chief is going to have to decide what to do about it. The Chief isn’t going to take the political hit; so, he will impose discipline.
      Of course, some Chiefs are the problem. These will get exposed when the citizens sue and the tape is subpoenaed.
      Cameras won’t change the police culture overnight. It will take a while. Chiefs are going to learn that they can’t loose all the tapes where citizens file a complaint.

    • Cams help. We need to change culture. We need to eliminate the blue wall of silence. To do that we need to treat it like what it is, a criminal enterprise. Let’s use Rico and other anti organized crime tactics to ferret out the bad cops.

  4. “…The question is: are police body cams doing anything to reverse this unaccountable Only Ones attitude”

    Maybe.

    I’ll point to another agency that has a really shaky history of abuses, the TSA. When something happens that exonerates the TSA they are quick to show video to prove it. When the video would show definitively they were in the wrong ‘suddenly’ the incident happened in a spot with no coverage. Or the tape is ‘still under review.’

    I know in talking to the cops here in my town most of the cops are against the body cams for one reason and one reason alone….. who has to keep up with all that footage?

    They like the cameras, they hate the potential nightmares of keeping up with the videos from the cameras, who has to log the videos, who has to keep up with them, for how long, and how big a storage system are we talking about?

  5. Boon or bandaid? Both.

    Right now bodycams will help to protect police officers who are unjustly (or unthinkingly) accused of improper action. They will also help to identify and – hopefully – expel uniformed thugs from the ranks of the police.

    However, I think bodycams are like seatbelts and airbags in a car.

    Both are intended to serve as protective measures when something goes wrong; however, neither are substitutes for good and thorough training, and thoughtful and proper application of that training in the real world. They are there in case something goes very wrong.

    The risk in both cases is that the backup will be seen as all that is needed and the training will be reduced. Then it’s just a bandaid.

  6. The truth hurts. Cops job is to probe events and circumstance. Moment they try to coerce a statement they and no better than a criminal.

  7. Looks like the NJ trooper business pays better than I thought. That guy lives in a 1.5 million dollar house. Writing tickets all day is a pretty lucrative profession. I think I chose the wrong career path.

  8. This news story has nothing to do with bodycams! You think a trooper is going to be wearing a cam with his pajamas at 2 AM? The headline and the story don’t go together.

    Bodycams were initially supposed to be used to preserve evidence against suspects. Now the default is that they are supposed to help police the police. I think if cops need to be watched their whole shift, we have a big problem, a problem cameras can’t solve. Goods cops don’t need watching. Bad cops will mess up even when someone’s watching. The problem is training, selection and supervision.

    This NJ cop should have never been sworn in. He obviously has a screw loose and screws like that don’t come lose overnight. Even if these kids were burglars, he can’t shoot at their car as they’re leaving! He should lose his badge, but it being NJ, he won’t.

  9. Definite must have. To use the police’s own mentality, the only cops who don’t like body cams are those who are doing something guilty.
    Additionally, it will help with community confidence in their police.

  10. I think it’s a good start. Better screening and training are also necessary, to prevent the wrong people from getting the job in the first place.

  11. Long before body cameras, I sat on a jury in a case brought against a young man who was may 5’6″ and about 120 to 130# soaking wet.
    The officers involved were one about 5’10” and clearly a body builder. The other was 6’4″ and pushing 240#.
    The kids was drunk and trying to go back to his apartment. A neighbor had apparently complained of a loud party. The officers approach him and being a bit drunk he kept gong with open his apartment door to go sleep it off.
    The impression we on the jury got was that the body builder (senior) officer, began demonstrating for the rookie just how BPD handles people that ignore them. They decided that this constituted “resisting arrest” and proceeded to beat the crap out of the kid.
    The only witnesses for the prosecution were the two police. The defense had several disinterested witness that back his version of events.
    The only reason the DA even prosecuted seemed to be to prevent a police brutality law suit.
    The victim was white. The senior BPD officer was white and the junior was black.
    The kids was cleared of all charges even without body cam evidence. I hope he sued their arses off.

  12. That’s an awfully nice house for a cop in New Jersey. In that area, that sucker comes with a seven digit price tag and a six digit tax bill.

  13. Problem is the NEXT step is the surveillance video gathered is going to be save to a server. Run it thru the feds facial recognition software tie it into the gov’t/civilian databases and used for anything/everything. Same as is already starting to happen with the license plate readers on cop cars and stationary (see the Maryland John Filippidas scandal). The Feds are already building out “FirstNet” to provide a separate nationwide mesh/cell high def video/data network to carry this traffic.

    Unfortunately my state (Iowa) has offered to be a pilot on this nifty BS. Where the data gather will flow or be stored is unanswered. Perhaps the NSA server farm in Utah (where is the backup though)

  14. I think body cams are definitely a net good for multiple reasons.

    Not all cops are bad. I’d wager the VAST majority are just doing their jobs and I know quite a few personally that abhor police misconduct just as much(if not more) than I do. Body cams will HELP the good cops by making life more difficult for the bad ones. Nobody wants to be a “snitch” when it’s just his word versus the other guy’s. Add to that the inherent cost to the department if any wrongdoing IS found and you’ve got very bad odds of the good cop(aka “snitch”) accomplishing anything other than making his own life/job more difficult for stirring up Sh1t.

    I believe they also have the benefit of keeping the stories from evolving as they so often seem to do on both sides of the law. People have the amazing ability to “remember” things differently when it suits their needs or can keep them out of trouble.

  15. I generally favor any technology that helps document what actually happens. Eyewitness testimony, even by honest people, is sorely lacking reliability.

    Any recording technology, including the electronic device in my car that identifies me going through toll booths, has the ability to provide evidence that can either convict or acquit, LEOs and citizens alike.

  16. It’s both. Right now it simply shows weather an officer acted inappropriate or not in a given situation. This is a quick fix for both self inflicted and media inflected damage police agency’s have sustained over the last few years to determine the truth of the situation. In the long run though officers behaviors will be forced to change as poor actions and behaviors are revealed and the public can more easily call them on it. Eventually it should help restore peoples trust in the police.

  17. Personal experience with NJ state troopers:
    Moving from Northern Virginia to Maine 24 hours before Bush invaded Iraq, towing a trailer with my ’67 Mustang convertible, driving in an open pickup truck with personal belongings in the bed. I was sleeping in the cab, parked in a semi-truck lot with two other semis in a lot capable of holding 40 trucks (that lot is a lot quieter than the car lot). All of my tags, inspection, license & registration were in order. I had an Arlington County, VA CCL permit but all weapons were stored in a locked suitcase in the cab separate from the ammo (and locked). I was legal in any venue I traveled.

    These two troopers woke me up from a deep sleep, after apparently after already inspecting the contents of the truck’s bed, wherein lies a standard .556 ammo case holding some 1,000 rounds of subsonic 115 JHP 9mm. The questions ensue:

    Where are you going? “Maine.”

    I set my mini video camera on “record” and propped it on the dash to record the driver’s door conversation – apparently unnoticed by the troopers.

    What’s in the ammo can? “Ammo.”

    May we inspect your vehicle? “No you may not.

    Got any firearms? I pause, considering the ongoing violation of my rights.

    Oh, I don’t like the way you’re hesitating and I think I need to see your license, registration and insurance card … step out of the vehicle and … I cut him off. “I was not hesitating, I just finally woke up enough to realize that you have no authority to question me and that you have already executed an illegal search, so I am answering your question with a well-considered demand that you immediately summon your shift commander to explain and hold you accountable for your illegal behavior “.

    A precious look of indignation that I wish had been captured by the camera I had placed on the dash to record the conversation, but he had backed up out of frame.

    You are free to go … have a nice day sir. “Officers, please surrender your identification cards, barracks contact information and the name of your commanding officer.”

    The report I filed apparently wasn’t worthy of an immediate response, so after calling twice and a registered letter later, I received a very generic letter stating that the incident had been investigated and that the two officers had been assigned to 40 hours of paid training and provided a short list of subjects covered, which included Constitutional rights and “sensitivity” training. I also got the name of their watch commander, an apology for the incident and the delay in responding to my first complaint.

    So it would appear that when threatened with the Constitution the NJ troopers will back off, but that is obviously subject to vary with the jurisdiction and officers involved.

    Lesson learned: Don’t do sleepovers in NJ, don’t trust troopers with too much time on their hands and hide your ammo cans – even if they are used for over a thousand different uses besides carrying ammo!

  18. RF the Police Hater is at it again “cough…cough”. I think that Internet publishers should have to wear body cams! Recently in my town we had an incident in which a pastor from a local church had car trouble and didn’t have a cell phone with him. He walked a couple miles and saw a house with the lights on. The preacher walked up to the door and rang the bell…it was 1 or 2 in the morning. The home owner came to the door with his shotgun in hand. The preacher told him he needed to use the telephone. Apparently the home owner a local Internet Publisher did not believe the preacher and yelled at him “get off my property or I will shoot” and opened the door.

    Well the preacher took off running and the Internet Publisher opened fire. Police say there were at least 6 rounds of buckshot fired but nobody was hit (lack of training). The preacher was able to flag down a off duty deputy who got the preacher a ride home. The preacher didn’t press charges because he figured the Publisher did not pose a threat to anyone! I think if Internet Publishers were all required to wear body cams we would all be safer and might know the whole story of what happened that night.

    1*

  19. Not about body cameras, just putting that out there so put that aside. LEO or no LEO you don’t start shooting after people start leaving. I don’t care what any body says I WILL NOT kill someone over freaking property and I sure as hell won’t run into the street and start shooting at some kids fleeing a situation where they did nothing wrong. I highly doubt these kids even represented a small threat, sounds like this Trooper needs to loose his job, actually this sounds like a case of deadly conduct and wreckless endangerment.

  20. I think in big bad Chiraq body cams are a good start. Police shootings and violence so often it barely registers a bleep on the evening snooze. I keep thinking the natives will get restless this summer but it just hasn’t happened. Accountability? Yep…

  21. I’m a delivery driver and have on occasion knocked on the wrong door. the latest I work is 11pm but even during daylight hours I’ve had a few people try and get irate about me being there , I just try and explain quick and leave, but at least twice I’ve come close to having to draw on someone because “I knocked on the wrong door”.

  22. Simply put, an 800,000 man occupying army. Anyone left who can’t see this is either delusional or stupid, or WANTS an occupying army.

  23. I’d at least wait a year, then burn the cop’s house down for being a prick who thinks he is above the law.

  24. So why did not the cop follow Tactical Joe’s advice and just fire a couple shotgun blasts through the door?

  25. Police bodycams are one side of the coin. Pervasive use of civilian bodycams are the real game changer. It’s getting cheap enough that pretty soon, every move you ever make will be recorded by 10+ cameras, on your body alone. And stored in the cloud encrypted, only decryptable by you, or your will executor; out of reach of the oppressors, regardless of “warrants”, “court orders” and whatever other nonsense they may drum up. Every interaction you have with someone, and soon even some thing, will be recorded. And will be used against you. So just behave already.

  26. I think police cameras aren’t a boon or a bust. I think they’re part of necessary checks and balances. The police should usually be happy that they have them because they should prove what they say, if they get pulled into court. If they’re dirty cops, they should be afraid.

    Locks are meant to keep honest people honest, guns keep peaceful people peaceful, and police cams keep good cops good.

    • Yep. Particularly when it kicks the browser back to the top of the page every time it re-starts. Doesn’t take long for frustration to set in, followed by giving up and going elsewhere.

  27. That reporter at the end of the video has some eggs knocking on that door what with its recent history. Maybe he was lucky no one answered.

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