The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Seems A Simple Solution

But maybe it isn't. At first glance, body cameras for the police makes perfect sense... then you think a little more and begin to wonder if the idea could be flawed.

I came across a headline about the White House backing up the idea with some $75 million to purchase these cameras for some 50,000 officers around the country. I did the math and came up with $1500 per unit. That's a bit expensive. Of course, they would have to withstand a physical beating so maybe that isn't all that bad a price... and then there's the overhead involved in the administrative costs of running the program.

Before you start to think no one else is concerned about the idea, read this excerpt from the story:

One major hitch is that cameras are only as honest as their wearers. "Body cameras are more appropriate expenditures than tanks and sniper rifles, but they will only be helpful if the police don’t turn them off, don’t delete their records, don’t play to the cameras or use them selectively," Neil M. Richards, privacy expert and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis told the school’s news website.

And that is only one "major hitch." I see someone from the ACLU (already concerned about privacy issues) to focus on the possible 5th Amendment issue of self-incrimination. Would the police have to start issuing the Miranda rule to everyone they talk to?

Update (12-6-14): It turns out that the $75 million only covers 50% of the cost of the body cameras... which means they are $3000 per unit.


Steven said...

Video's not a panacea, but it certainly could help a lot of cases. Yeah, I read stories every single week about cops who "lost" video or "forgot" to turn the cameras on, who were flat-out lying about what happened and were later proven wrong by video from a bystander or security camera that they didn't know about while illegally filing a false report.

But - I don't read many stories about people filing false claims against police, and I know those have to exist, and probably happen often (I have read some). Assuming that most cops are "good" and I'm only reading about the bad'd think they would WANT to document their interactions with their fellow citizens that they're serving and protecting, if just to protect themselves against false accusations.

I don't have much of a point, yes - I'm biased, yes, I read a lot of stories about bad actors and "lost" video that make me jaded...but when you've given the government and its actors power over other civilians, with a license to detain, injure, lock up, or even kill...I think that they should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us...and I think that when we have a case of police saying one thing and a (what do you call anybody who's not a police officer? A lot of people say civilians, but police are civilians too, even if they want to think they're military)...when police and the rest of the citizenry bump heads, and the officer SHOULD have had dash or body video, but said video comes up "missing," I think we should presume innocence in many cases. He-said-she-said is generally not enough to PROVE guilt, even if it's a cop, and I think "lost" video is generally a good indicator of a bad actor.

Steven said...

I don't know if I have a point, but I've had probably more than average the number of police encounters just for traffic stuff, and most have been good, courteous interactions. I'm sure not many as you went through as a hippie in a different day and age, but I'd expect better and more professional behavior these days, and I think, for the most part, that's the case. But the negative interactions I've had (not just negative in that I drove away with a ticket, as most of those were "positive") just infuriate me - I guess because you're basically powerless against personalities that seem hell-bent on exercising their power over others. One fairly recent one was just a couple of officers smoking and being otherwise unprofessional while running a speed trap, one was an officer ripping my door open, yelling names at me, and then sending me on my way...but I've had a couple where the officer has literally admitted to illegally detaining I have a very strong feeling that with ubiquitous video, either those stops wouldn't have happened...or the hazy, overly paranoid, probably false feeling that they would have done something like you see in a movie and manufactured cause (planting drugs, breaking a tail light). I'm sure that wouldn't happen, but it's also just unsettling to be told to your face "I pulled you over because..." and the reason is completely invalid.

Like I said, I don't think I have a point. I'm just always for more information and context instead of less, even if it doesn't lead to utopia.

Steven said...

Sorry, last comment - I mentioned that I'm sure my experiences don't compare to yours, but that got me thinking...our experiences certainly don't compare to minorities' experiences. I'm relatively well-off, white, and drive nice cars. The smoke-and-obscenity-filled speed trap (on a Friday morning, the next Monday night in the same spot a cop car from the same precinct tailgated me for a mile (at 5-7mph over), then sped up to around 25mph over and zoomed away, no flashing lights) I was able to easily get out of, for free, since I have a lawyer friend. For the illegal stop in the same area, I was able to skip work, go to court, tell the judge what happened, and get sent away scot-free.

I just can't imagine being black in Atlanta, and/or being poor, not having access to lawyers, not having a job where I can easily skip work and get to court for being illegally stopped, etc. I'm even further away from the issue of cameras now, I know, but I just think the system needs reforms, and Ferguson and NYC choke-holds are at least getting issues talked about. Fewer police are killed or injured each year (in real numbers and especially in %), gun control measures have been turned down or overturned, stop-and-frisk is down in NY - and with all this, crime is still down. Violent crime is way down since the 90s. Police are often justifying their behavior with "it's dangerous for police out there," but while that is true to some extent, it's safer than ever to be a cop, and all the "violence against cops is rising" rhetoric is just false. I consider myself a conservative in that I'm for small government...but I don't do a 180ยบ turn when the government in question is police.

Douglas said...

Steven, I cannot disagree with any of the points you made. However, consider that issues of privacy have already forced the option to turn off these cameras. And, while video can prove an action necessary or unnecessary, much can depend on context and when the video begins and ends. Will the video show the hand movement that scared the cop? Will we always see all of the actions taken by both cop and the confronted person? Or will we (or a jury) have to interpret what is shown and have to determine context?