Video: the policeman’s friend

Ed Brayton has published a long list of police departments abusing people’s First Amendment rights and illegally interfering with people trying to videotape their conduct. But now, in a refreshing change of pace, there is news of at least one police department that finally “gets” video technology.

After years of seeing officers’ misconduct captured on video, police departments across the nation are trying to use the medium to their advantage, releasing footage of their own to rebut allegations and to build trust within communities. One department even posted video of an officer punching a woman to show why he was fired.

Weeks before the Occupy demonstration in April, Minneapolis police created their own YouTube channel to give officers a venue to tell their own stories.

Ed has been saying this all along: video is the policeman’s best friend. Police departments have significant power to do harm in society, and consequently deserve closer scrutiny. Video records of their actions will vindicate proper conduct and expose improper conduct. That’s a win-win all around.


  1. lordshipmayhem says

    Video is indeed a double-edged sword: the bad police officer’s misdeeds are shown for all the world to see. The civilian who is looking to get the cop in trouble gets exposed as well.

    I’ve seen at least one video demonstrating this. The perpetrator beat himself, telling the cops to release him or get blamed for the beating. The lawyer came in with the beating complaint, was shown the video, packed up his briefcase and left, furious at being lied to by his client.

    When there’s a dispute as to what happened, a video beats a thousand words spoken in anger.

  2. F says

    Besides, dash-cams give us hours of television entertainment.

    They are a good thing, though, both to catch misconduct and criminal behavior, and hopefully to prompt people otherwise inclined to think twice about what they are doing.

    • left0ver1under says

      F says:

      Besides, dash-cams give us hours of television entertainment.

      All those shows are on FAUX channels. Have you ever noticed something else they have in common?

      In those shows, most of the criminals are white, yet few, if any, are identified by name and no photos are shown, despite the criminals being arrested by the cops in the videos.

      Few of the criminals are black, yet most, if not all, of those identified by name are black, and close up photos of them are shown.

      Watch a bunch of those shows and count the criminals named versus skin colour. What I’ve said will match what you see.

      • redpanda says

        I have more pressing concerns in my life than watching thirty hours of COPS with a clipboard to see how racist the editors are, but if you know of anyone else who’s already done the work I wouldn’t mind spending a few minutes skimming through it.

  3. Tony Hoffman says

    I was in a bike race a few years ago and a teammate was involved in a high speed crash with four other riders at the sprint finish. It was pretty gruesome, with lots of anger and blame. My teammate was pretty upset with the other riders involved, and I was inclined to believe his assessment (it’s just so hard to clearly see what’s going on during all that). Then we saw a video that a guy shot of the finish, and it clearly showed that my teammate was the guy who veered and caused the whole event. That objective evidence was great — it totally changed the dynamic from one of unresolvable mutual recrimination to one of self-examination, apology, and correction. Because of vide, everybody won — some guys got absolved, the guy who caused the crash accepted blame and adopted a less hostile riding style, and it opened up a discussion about responsibilities, etc. that wouldn’t have been possible if the cause hadn’t been isolated.

    Video is good. So much better than testimony.

  4. mikespeir says

    I’m torn on this whole issue. If the laws are good–if the people enforcing them are good–only bad people have anything to fear from this kind of monitoring. However….

  5. says

    Sci Fi Writer David Brin has been arguing for stricter video surveillance of the police for years. Certainly all interrogations should be on video.

  6. ik says

    I too favor it. There are a lot of advantages both to making the police more effective and to prevent abuse.

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