In practice, police responsibility is not the main function of body cameras.
As we approach the end of the year, we are re-examining some of the stories worth seeing. This year, police cameras switched from experimental technology to standard equipment. After the protests in ferguson in 2014, sales exploded, and the police retort that they were abused. Cameras have become routine, but they have not significantly weakened the number of police shootings. NPR’s Martin Kaste has studied how police use body CAM for the first solid research.
Martin Custer wired: Washington, dc is the largest research project this year, consisting of two groups of officials – each about a thousand officials – their actions, comparing results. And they say there is no statistically significant difference between the two groups in terms of public complaints, whether they have cameras or how many times they use force.A study in Las Vegas this year showed a decline in public complaints, but this is a smaller study. But the best we can say is that we don’t see the obvious effects of these cameras.
FRAYER: did the city and police have a second idea? I mean, it costs money.
KASTE: it’s expensive, especially to store video, and keep it in the cloud, if that’s what you’re doing. But, no, you won’t hear that, because after three or four years, these cameras have become standard equipment in the criminal justice system. Prosecutors are now using them more, rather than – for the police accountability, which prosecutors are using to prosecute the accused and the public. I know I’ve been to these offices, whether they’re public defenders or prosecutors, they’re basically reviewing video all day. The camera has been expected.
FRAYER: this is a technique designed to spy on the police, but it’s actually a Gospel to prosecutors, and the prosecutor is suddenly walking around in all of this evidence and can go to court.
Custer: yeah. In fact, George Mason University (George Mason University) last year, according to a survey of the prosecutor they are more likely to use the video to prosecute a public, rather than using video to prosecute a police officer. Our real technology soon becomes a general requirement for prosecution. The jury now expects this, and the police on the scene have their own video pressure to find evidence. Last summer there was a notorious case in Baltimore, where one official said in a panic. He has a body camera earlier than he thought. It grabbed the drug and put it somewhere, and then whirled. Then, when he knew he was recording, he found that the drugs he had placed there surprised him.
Unidentified policeman: yo.
Lancaster: he may have been rediscovered a real drug discovery or planting, we are not sure, but it shows how the police basically basically, prosecutors will take, must have a video.
FRAYER: who controls video after shooting? Can citizens use this video to support their own claims about police abuse?
Custer: there’s no national standard in this respect, and it’s getting more and more controversial. In many places, it is considered a public record and you can ask for it. But in many cases, because the case is under investigation, you can’t see video, and it’s not serious. Or, in places like California, police officers are citing police officers’ privacy. They almost view it as a personnel file, or something, and it takes a lot to get video out. And then you’ll see that the department releases positive video, heroic officers, but they slowly release the bad. So there’s a lot of uncertainty about where you see video and when,
FRERER: Martin Kaste covers NPR’s law enforcement and privacy. thank you
Custer: you’re welcome.