“Baton Rouge police took Alton Sterling surveillance video without a warrant or permission”
Apparently “Minutes” after the shooting, cops took the store’s video recorder. It’s as if they were trying to collect evidence of a crime, or something. So they could destroy it.
It ought to be becoming clear to everyone in the US that the ubiquity of cameras is changing the relationship between the citizenry and the police. The police resistance to “cop cameras” and self-surveillance technology is a sham – they claim that it’s encumbering or awkward or whatever.
Over and over and over and over we have seen two things:
Meanwhile, the citizen’s right to record police with a camera has been upheld over and over by courts, yet cops continue to threaten citizens that shoot video of them. It’s as if they refuse to understand the law or something.
Camera ‘Em All
Society regulates some roles disproportionately, because abuse of those roles may be disproportionately damaging. If you carry a gun on behalf of the people you have a disproportionate ability to do damage and therefore ought to be subject to additional monitoring. If that sounds onerous or awkward, you probably chose the wrong career field.
Society recognizes that people who wield disproportionate power have a responsibility to be accountable. That’s why there are government record-keeping requirements: we acknowledge that a corrupt politician has the ability to do disproportionate damage to all of society and any privacy rights they may have are trumped (Am I still allowed to say use that expression?) by society’s need to protect itself.
Oddly, the people who exercise disproportionate power in society happen to be: politicians, cops, and the wealthy. All of whom tend to try to avoid scrutiny. I’m not going to ask a rhetorical “Why?” because the reason is obvious.
We need cop cams. We need politician cams. We need rich people cams.
For one thing, if the cops that stole the evidence of the other cop’s crime had cop cams, there’d be camera footage of them stealing the evidence from the store’s video camera. We all (most of us) already live under a high degree of scrutiny. Whenever I go to an airport, I am photographed constantly. When I drive through some tollboths my license plate is scanned and my truck is photographed. Most of us do not attempt to avoid this scrutiny, we tolerate it as part of the tradeoff for living in our society. But the cameras are watching the wrong people. Who did more damage to the US, the 9/11 terrorists or the Wall Street speculators who cratered the economy in 2008? For that matter, I’ve never killed anyone in my life, but cops do it all the time and the only audit trail is usually collected by some terrified civilian who is then stalked and threatened.
When cops grab evidence in a situation like this, it’s not because they planned to rush it to the FBI crime lab.
I’d say “we should require that federal whistle-blower protections be offered automatically to anyone who comes forward with video of cops shooting someone” except that we’ve seen that federal whistleblower protections aren’t worth very much anyway. Whistleblowers are only protected if they benefit the powerful, if they embarrass the powerful they are hounded down and abused, or worse.