Why Body Cameras on Public Officials May Be a Horrible Idea
The reason for this article is not to stir up controversy, nor try to gain attention by pom pom waving for an alternative idea, but rather to hopefully cast a glimpse into the mind of the human collective and learn from what society has shown us in the past. With the recent incidents between public servants and the public itself, a loud drum beat for police officers to wear body cameras has been heard from civil rights leaders, politicians, ratings-focused “news” shows, tenured professors and local politicians looking to stay in office. Even some local police chiefs after meeting with politicians or community organizers have come out in favor of body cameras.
On the surface it does seem like a wonderful idea. Sort of a why not sort of thing. This way we can see “first hand” what transpired during the interaction between civil servant and public citizen. Video evidence to solve the situation once and for all. Keep public violence, looting and disobedience at a minimum because we can see what happened. All of this sounds logical, but I offer that this may create more problems then any body cameras may offer to help.
First, reaction, timing and professional responses often happen on instinct, a literal hundredth of a second response to a situation that may be developing before the public servant. As some one who stopped a gun holding assailant who was robbing a bar I was bouncing in, I reacted, I did not wait to see if my body camera was angled correctly to provided those who judge the best line of sight or sound. I saw a situation, reacted to it, and disarmed the man with the gun. Why would we ever want a public servant to wonder if the camera offers the best angle for the servant to be cleared of any wrong doing. Reluctance to act and react can lead to death.
Think about it, we as a society, are creatures of habit. When we hear of an interaction between a public servant and the public, how much time goes by between the time you hear of the situation, and your thoughts wondering where is the video? Do we want to live in a society where conviction in courts or even in public opinion rests on video and not in the gathering of all the evidence? If the video itself becomes the paramount decider of innocence or guilt, I hearken back to my first reason why body cameras my be a bad idea. May a public servant hesitate to make sure the “camera is rolling” or the picture or angle of interaction shows best to those who may view?
Dashboard cameras do not hinder decisions, they are stationary and generally give a good view of what is recorded. A body camera can not offer these intangibles. “Experts” will be called in questioning what the camera does not show, or side conversations or question the legitimacy of the video itself. A “cottage industry” of “expert body camera interpreters may spring up” and cause the murky video legitimacy testimony clog and hinder all other evidence that may be presented.
While not a direct correlation think about this, when ever we hear of a religious issue being brought to court, we often hear the term “separation of church and state” as if this is written in the Bill of Rights, it is not, it came from a judges decision in a court case. It is now dogma, may we with body cameras see the same type of dogma, where if the camera does not show it, it didn’t happen or does not exist? The establishment clause in the first amendment is law that has morphed into some thing else.
May body cameras on public servants which may risk the lives of those who wear them, create a situation where all other evidence takes a back seat to “lights camera action?” I worry this may be true.
June 12th 2015
Darren Redmond has over 20 years of direct managerial experience in the fields of Marketing and Sales. In addition he holds a Masters Degree In Education. Darren Redmond has also coached on the Collegiate level; Division one Softball and Division Three football