I’ve been a proponent of cop-cams for years. I would now like to officially reverse my position.
As if it wasn’t bad enough that cop-cams mysteriously get turned off at exactly the wrong time, cops are dead set on demonstrating that it does not matter. If they are on the camera, doing something naughty, the police department will run interference for them anyway. Trying to get police to wear cop-cams is a strategy that is doomed to fail, so we may as well just stop.
NYPD, for example, is stonewalling 212 requests for camera footage pursuant to abuse claims, and has only even responded to 33 of them. [propublica] Only Roger Stone and Donald Trump are allowed to stonewall like that, but NYPD has – apparently – never heard the dictum, “you have nothing to hide if you haven’t done anything wrong.”
Like many cities, New York City began equipping its police officers with body-worn cameras a few years ago. The footage is often invaluable evidence for the civilian agency charged with investigating complaints about NYPD abuses.
But first, the agency’s investigators need to get the footage. And increasingly, the NYPD is not turning it over.
In May, New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board requested body-worn camera footage for 212 cases involving possible misconduct but received only 33 responses, according to a recent internal memo.
The NYPD’s responsiveness has “steadily gotten worse,” stated the memo, which was obtained by ProPublica. The memo warned that “the situation is untenable.”
There is, however, a lot that can be done that might make a difference. Other than plowing the police departments under, and starting from scratch. That is a two-pronged attack, one prong of which is to criminalize attempts to prevent someone from taking pictures in a public location, including/especially if it captures police activity. And, I think we’re already collectively working on the other prong, which is making sure that any time a cop is in sight, they are on camera. They can’t be trusted, apparently, to work with difficult cameras – but that’s something civilians appear to have no trouble with, at all. Legal challenges to qualified immunity probably will not work as long as republicans or central-party democrats are in office, but there is already plenty of case law (IANAL) I believe, that asserts citizens’ rights to film. If cops have been found to be acting improperly if they take or destroy citizens’ cameras in the past, then that seems to break the doctrine of qualified immunity.
Most of you probably already know about the police in New York, who are violating their own departmental policy by putting electrical tape over their badge numbers [intercept]. Those cops should be fired, immediately. Sure, they should be fired for putting tape over their badge number, but they mostly should be fired for being incredibly stupid. This is not one of those “bad apples” situations, this is:
- You’re so dumb you hid your badge number on your badge when your badge number is also on your helmet.
- You’re so dumb you hid your badge number on your badge and your name tag is right under it, officer Cepin Arias.
- You’re so dumb that you took your cop cam off, as did the officer to your right, but the empty mounting is sitting there for all the world to see. Let me guess, you’ll claim that something was wrong with the camera – like, that it wasn’t anywhere to be found. Meanwhile the officer to your left is carrying his camera; his name is “Officer Material Witness.”
I am enraged that apparently they think I’m as stupid as they are.
What they are actually doing is evidence-tampering. Attempting to obscure their badge number is a tacit admission that they want to avoid being identified (other than that they’re really really stupid) (did I mention that an average cinder-block is smarter than these cops?) (not all cops. I am sure there are some smart ones – in New Zealand)
Cop cams are dead. Let’s not talk about them anymore. Let’s talk, instead about how to make civilian car-trackers that can be surreptitiously attached under a cruiser’s bumper, that provide evidence of which cop was where, when, so they can’t lie about that. And everyone should have a cop-cam in their car. I just ordered a nice one with a 1gig card for $32, as a backup for my iPhone. I’ll wire it into the utility power in the back of my SUV so it’s always running when the utility circuit is on.
The FBI has already done extensive work to establish that citizens have no expectation of privacy if they are outside of their home. Did you know that? If you’re walking around, your cellular communications are not protected; they can be collected by a stingray, without a warrant. If the FBI wants to put a GPS tracker on your car, they will – whether they need a warrant, or not. While they’re at it, they’ll put malware on your computer that strobes your location whenever your computer requests a new DHCP address; there are multiple ways this is done (what, do you think Microsoft throws away the information when it gets a trace/ping to test internet connectivity? That’s a full route track. Obviously, the FBI and the police would have great big horking shitfits if someone started tracking and surveiling them, but equally obviously they cannot be trusted to act in good faith as citizens are required to.
I also wish to declare that I am officially hardening my attitude on the “bad apples in the applesauce” metaphor. Look at the picture of the police, above: they are all violating department policy to some degree or another. That is not a few bad cops in a sea of good cops – it’s bad cops all the way down. I’m willing to believe there are good cops, but from now on, the burden of proof is on them. I want to know how many times they’ve reported misbehaving cops to IA, and if the answer is “never” they’re not good cops.
Since the police are obscuring their badges, they should not have arrest powers. How can they claim that they were somewhere and witnessed something, after they deliberately tried to make it hard to tell where they were?