Friday, December 26, 2014

rule of law: what if the watcher was being watched...



Huffington Post | The Berkeley, Missouri, police officer who fatally shot a black teenager on Tuesday was issued a body camera earlier that night, but wasn't wearing it at the time of the shooting. The dashboard camera in his police cruiser also was not activated.
On Wednesday, St. Louis County Chief of Police Jon Belmar said that the officer -- who is still unnamed, but was described as a white 34-year-old and six-year veteran of the police force -- was responding to reports of a theft at a Mobil station when he confronted 18-year-old Antonio Martin and another person. Belmar said Martin "produced a pistol with his arm straight out, pointing at the officer," at which point the officer responded by firing three shots at Martin, striking him once and killing him. The person with Martin then fled.
Surveillance footage from the Mobil station has been released, and appears to show a person in the background -- said to be Martin -- raising his arm in the direction of a police cruiser and officer. The camera seems to be too far away from the incident, however, for anything to be to determined conclusively from the video.
Video captured by a body camera or dashboard camera likely would have been able to reveal more details about the incident. Belmar said the car's dashboard camera wasn't activated because the cruiser's emergency lights hadn't been turned on at the time, which would have automatically triggered the recording.
At a later press conference on Wednesday, Berkeley Mayor Theodore Hoskins said he wasn't concerned that the officer hadn't turned on his body camera. He noted that the equipment is new for the town's police department and that officers haven't received full training yet.
"In the future and when we get well trained, there will be a severe penalty for an officer who does not turn [their body camera] on," Hoskins said.
Body cameras are frequently cited as a key way to bring transparency to interactions between law enforcement and civilians, especially in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown and other unarmed individuals who died in encounters that weren't recorded. One frequently cited pilot program in Rialto, California, found that between 2012 and 2013, in the first year of the city using police cameras, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent and use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent.