Minor Thoughts from me to you

The Perils of Police Cameras

The Perils of Police Cameras →

The BloombergView editorial staff:

First, the potential for cameras to impartially resolve disputes shouldn't be oversold. Videos often lack critical context, and studies have repeatedly shown that jurors can be misled by variables such as a film's angle or focus, which can unduly sway perceptions of guilt. That cuts both ways: Footage of a protester bumping into a cop, devoid of context, could make life much easier on a prosecutor.

Finally, equipping police with cameras and audio recorders means that they're constantly conducting surveillance on innocent civilians -- and potentially storing it all. Police frequently enter private homes and encounter people in medical emergencies who may not want to be filmed. Some officers may be tempted to record people on the basis of race or religion. And some departments have asserted that the public has no right to see such footage.

In short, a policy intended to empower the public and monitor the police could have precisely the opposite effect.

It's thought provoking. It reminds me that, once again, there are no easy fixes for life's problems. The 24-hour surveillance angle is the most interesting. What if it's combined with FOIA requests? Allow it, and you could request footage of any encounter, both to look at a troubling incident and to snoop on other citizens. Deny it and police and prosecutors get something to hide behind.

This entry was tagged. Police Civil Liberties