News Ticker

Body Cams a step forward for Police Accountability

Problems with police abusing their authority are nothing new, though they frequently go unknown to the public. There is no police department immune to allegations of excessive force or misconduct. The District Attorney’s office has turned their back while those on the force often band together in order to cover their crimes, seeing a little abuse as par for the course. But when these crimes are discovered, they often lead to lawsuits. When the smoke clears, these lawsuits, judgments and settlements ultimately come out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

Recently, the New York City Police Department Commissioner, William Bratton announced that the NYPD would be testing body cameras in the next few months to make the interactions between police and the community they serve more transparent.

City Public Advocate Letitia James has also pushed for the pilot program.

“This summer we’ve seen some really powerful images in Missouri and New York City in the aftermath of … Michael Brown and Eric Garner, ” Ms. James said. Cameras, she said, “Would go a long way toward providing an objective record of what happened either before or after an incident.

Its reported that approximately 60 officers in six precincts—one precinct in each of the city’s five boroughs and one public-housing district—will begin wearing the devices by year’s end, said Jessica Tisch, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for information technology.

The NYPD will be the largest police force in the country to use the technology, which can record both video and audio.

In August 2012, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the NYPD to start an officer camera pilot program in the one precinct in each borough that has the highest use of stop-and-frisk among officers. What we seen now is in line with what the Judge has ordered.

Denver Police Chief Robert White said that body-mounted cameras would serve as an impartial record, protecting those who make legitimate complaints

“Citizens should know officers are being held accountable,” White told the newspaper. “The only officers who would have a problem with body cameras are bad officers.”

After cameras were introduced in Rialto, California, in February 2012, public complaints against officers plunged 88 percent compared with the previous 12 months. Officers’ use of force fell by 60 percent.

At a recent forum hosted by the White Plains/ Greenburgh NAACP. Greenburgh Police Chief Christopher T. McNerney announce that the department will be also testing body cams for their officers.

Even though White Plains Commissioner Chong and Chief Bradley was noticeably absent, Mayor Roach did announce that the WPPD are looking into body cams also.

Since 9/11, and the subsequent militarization of the police by the Department of Homeland Security, about 5,000 Americans have been killed by US police officers. The civilian death rate is nearly equal to the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq. In fact, you are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

In Minneapolis, the city government voted to spend $25,000 to have cops wear cameras in the performance of their duties. City Council member, Betsy Hodges, said that the city would ultimately save money from lessening the number of lawsuits.

Two months into a trial of on-body cameras for Los Angeles Police Department officers, the devices have earned mostly positive feedback. Sgt. Dan Gomez told the commission that officers have reported the cameras actually defused a potentially explosive situations.

Body-worn digital cameras at the University of Dayton have made interactions between campus police officers and students more positive and peaceful, says Randall Groesbeck, director of administration and security for the Department of Public Safety there.

NYC Public Advocate Letitia James has stated that New York City spends about $152 million on police misconduct settlements a year and outfitting every patrol officer with a camera would cost about $32 million, and the pilot program would cost about $5 million.

According to a 2012 report from NYC’s Comptroller’s office, the city paid out $185.6 million in claims for fiscal year 2011. That’s a 35% increase over the previous year, which came in at $137.3 million in settled claims. Fiscal year 2011 saw “an historical high of 8,882 claims filed” against the NYPD, with a 55% rise in claims against the NYPD over the past five years.

With so many video, audio and eyewitness accounts of Police Criminality, there are still other Law Enforcement representatives  still in denial. So why are there so much push back by some unions and law enforcement management? The reason is cultural and political. First, many law enforcement management and rank and file norms and values are formed by the institutional culture of policing. The “Police Culture” that fosters an “us versus them” mentality. The cops are the good guys and everyone else is a potential bad guy. Even those that pay taxes.

Whether or not they personally condone an officer’s behavior, or the behavior violates department’s policy, they rationalize his behavior; like saying a chokehold is not a chokehold, so the problem is never resolved.

Second, elected officials are scared to pass the necessary legislation because of fear of being labeled “Anti-Cop” by police unions when it comes time for elections.

We have already seen the “Anti-Cop” rhetoric from PBA President Pat Lynch along with SBA President Ed Mullins.

In reality, payouts of claims to the NYC government are an unproductive use of taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, you can go into many police departments throughout the country and you will find repeat offenders in the rank and file.

Many officers do their work with pride and dignity. But officers of good standing actions are always questioned when police managements, politicians and lawmaker’s have failed to hold those accountable who are known to have stepped over the line on multiple occasions.

One would think that the surge in police-misconduct allegations and civil-rights claims against police departments, a budgetary-strapped cities would be an alarm bell for the elected officials, police management and the federal government long before the death of Mike Brown of Ferguson, Mo.

This is a trend that is ultimately paid by the taxpayer and must be stemmed and reversed with better risk management including training with local sand state oversight. By failing to correct the problems in the system of law enforcement. Politicians are failing their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. As the taxpayers’ agents, politicians should be establishing proper law enforcement oversight legislation that will create checks and balances for protection of the taxpayer and the law enforcement officer.

It’s elementary; it’s the elected officials who hire Police Commissioners who are over the law enforcement officers and their vital position as gatekeepers of the criminal justice system. The elected official and the Commissioner are co-joined at the hip to make it imperative that members of the public have trust that their department’s integrity with proper oversight, proper training, promoting positive behavior, ensure greater accountability, and deter malpractice. Either we pay in the front end of being proactive or we pay in at the back end in of million of settlements and judgments of your taxpayer dollars.

Body cams are not the total solution but its a start.

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About Damon K. Jones (223 Articles)
Damon K. Jones is an Activist, Author, and Publisher of Black Westchester Magazine, a Black-owned and operated newspaper based in Westchester County, New York. Mr. Jones is a Holistic Health Practitioner, First Aid in Mental Health Practioner, Diet, and Nutrition Advisor, and Vegan, Vegetarian Nutrition Life Coach. Mr. Jones is a 31 year Law Enforcement Practioner, New York Representative of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Mr. Jones has been a guest commentator on New York radio stations WBLS (107.5 FM), WLIB (1190 am), WRKS (98.7 FM), WBAI (99.5 FM), and Westchester's WVOX (1460 am). Mr. Jones has appeared on local television broadcasts, including Westchester News 12 “News Makers” and Public Television “Winbrook Pride. You can now hear Damon every Wednesday at 830 AM on WFAS 1230 AM, Morning with Bob Marone Show.
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