I just finished reading this U-T San Diego article titled “Police Use of Body Camera Video Debated” and I am at a total loss. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego (a democrat, there’s a shock) is pushing a law that would make it illegal for officers wearing body cameras to review the video recording of an incident before writing their report. I am trying to figure out how one attempts to rationalize something like that, and I am coming up blank. The only reason I can figure is that you perceive the cops as the bad guys and the suspects as some sort of oppressed victims. I mean really, am I missing some other logical reason?
“Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and civil rights advocates say police in California should not be permitted to view the footage early on because it’s not fair to criminal defendants and it’s not the intended use of the cameras.”
Sorry, come again? How is reviewing video “not fair to criminal defendants”??? I did not realize it was law enforcement’s job to be “fair to criminals”. Well, crap! Here all this time, I have been under the impression that our job was to apprehend criminals and present the best, most accurate case against them as possible. Silly me…
And if capturing the facts of what transpired is not the intended use of a body cam, then what is the purpose???
“Weber said the primary role of body cameras is to de-escalate incidents between police and the general public, not to serve as a reference for officers as they write reports.”
Oh, okay. I gotcha, body cams are not intended to record the facts of an incident; they are primarily to be used as an intimidation tool against the cops, to keep those evil bastards in line. Roger that.
Further, according to the author, the “Officers with the Oakland Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s jail deputies are prohibited from” reviewing the video before writing their reports currently. I honestly cannot believe there are actually departments that prevent officers from viewing the video footage before writing their reports. Do they also prevent officers from reviewing their notes? Their in-car camera video? Any surveillance camera footage? What is next, not allowing them to remember things? And no more talking to witnesses?
I’m sorry, but there is no logically defensible reason to prevent officers from viewing the video before writing their reports. The camera is a tool which is designed to, as best as possible, accurately record the incident, just like a notepad, CAD event printout (for those agencies using a computer aided dispatch, or CAD system), radio traffic recordings, surveillance camera footage, in car cameras and witness statements. The goal of all of those tools is to produce the most accurate police report possible, which will either prove the suspect guilty, or exonerate them. Anyone arguing against review of the video is someone whose ass will never be on the line in a court for something they were forced to write from memory alone.
Incidents captured on body camera, just like any other video camera, can range from the most benign consensual contact to a very long, very traumatic, life and death struggle. To suggest an officer not be allowed to use that resource is asinine! That would be like me trying to complete a pursuit report from a 30 mile pursuit where the suspect threw guns and drugs from the car while weaving through crowded city streets without reviewing my in-car camera footage. Yeah, it can be done, but there are going to be errors. Why on earth would you intentionally want errors in a crime report?
This is an open invitation to any administrators, and especially to any CA lawmaker who thinks this is a good idea: You are welcome to spend a week with me, in my patrol car, while wearing a body camera. After each encounter, you will be required to write a report about the incident. When it is all said and done, we will compare your reports to the video footage and see just how accurate your reports are.
The fact that there are administrators are already preventing cops from reviewing evidence before they complete their reports reminds me of one of the 20 undeniable truths of law enforcement:
13. There are too many people calling the shots who never worry about being shot at. It would behoove every leader to get into a patrol car on a regular basis. Patrol gives the gift of proper perspective.
The day my department, or in this case, the state prevents me from reviewing any and all evidence before I write my reports is the day I hand in my badge and walk away!