Has Obama’s Police Body Camera Policy Taken A Hit?

Let’s start off with the Eric Garner case

(NY Post) A Staten Island grand jury cleared an NYPD cop in the chokehold death of Eric Garner during his caught-on-video arrest for peddling loose cigarettes, the Staten Island district attorney confirmed Wednesday.

The panel voted a “no-bill” and dismissed all potential charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

The blockbuster decision capped weeks of investigation by the special grand jury, which was empaneled in September specifically to review evidence in Garner’s racially charged death.

A lot of people are trying to link this to the Ferguson case, but they couldn’t be more different. Garner may have been involved in a minor instance of breaking the law (peddling cigarettes), but, unlike Michael Brown, he didn’t just assault a store clerk, didn’t assault a police officer, didn’t try and take an officer’s gun, and didn’t charge the officer. Furthermore, Officer Darren Wilson, in the Ferguson incident, was alone. The police in Staten Island where there in force. To me, the video clearly shows the chokehold, and perhaps overzealous police officers. And possible criminal conduct.

But, Garner was also resisting arrest.

What we really do not have are the facts as presented to the Grand Jury, along with their reasoning for the “no-bill”. What about the use of body cameras for police

With Eric Garner, Obama’s body camera argument just took a big hit

President Obama announced this week that, in response to Ferguson and other cases of cops killing unarmed black men, the White House would call for $75 million to make 50,000 body cameras available to police departments across the country.

But on Wednesday, a grand jury declined to indict New York police officers in the choking death of Eric Garner — a case in which there was footage. And the timing couldn’t really be worse for the White House.

The Washington Post goes on to note

Proponents of expanding the use of body cameras point to Rialto, Calif., where complaints against police officers fell by 88 percent a year after they were put into use in 2012. And more than anything, the use of technology to prevent more Fergusons has been something plenty of people with very different views of what happened could agree upon.

So, they can actually be helpful (it should be noted that it wasn’t a body camera used in the Eric Garner case, just someone filming). The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman goes deeper into saying that the policy of body cameras might be a bad one

Barak Ariel, a criminologist at the University of Cambridge, isn’t so sure about body cameras, either.

The technology is “surely promising, but we don’t know that it’s working,” Ariel told me. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve drugs until they’ve been studied extensively, he explained, and governments should take a similar approach with body-worn cameras. It’s a solution that has yet to be proven.

There’s lots more where that came from.

But, are the cameras worth the price-tag? In my opinion, heck yes. They surely won’t be perfect. Incidents will still happen. Let’s not forget that the Rodney King incident was filmed during the time of everyone getting their own video camera. The use of police car dash cams has reduced complaints against officers, has given police proof of their conduct during stops and other incidents, has shown the conduct of those stopped by police, and has also shown police engaged in illegal and/or over the line conduct. When the last happens, most police officers are held responsible.

Having body cameras is better than not having them. They cause police and citizens to generally act in a better manner. Not always. This is one Obama policy that Conservatives should get behind.

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10 Responses to “Has Obama’s Police Body Camera Policy Taken A Hit?”

  1. Nighthawk says:

    I can also get behind the idea of body cameras as well. They certainly couldn’t hurt and, most likely, will help.

    What I have a problem with is the price. $75 million for 50K cameras equates to $1500 per camera. Really?

    Of course, this is the feds so why should they buy something for $300 when they can get the exact same thing for 5 times the price.

  2. Jeffery says:

    No probable cause that a crime may have been committed?

    Regarding possible police misconduct, the Grand Jury/local prosecutor system is broken.

    In these cases, maybe it’s time to appoint a special prosecutor who does not work daily with the police being investigated.

  3. Kevin says:

    The video makes it clear that the cop strangled the guy. Without the video, not many would believe that a cop would do that. This is clearly positive for the pro-video crowd. It didn’t bring justice (yet) in this instance, but it has in the past and will in the future.

    More eyes on the scene = more justice. For cops AND civilians.

  4. Nighthawk says:

    What the video makes clear is that the cop did NOT strangle the guy. Well after the officer released his so-called chokehold you can clearly hear Garner saying “I can’t breath”. If he can speak, he can breath. So no strangulation.

    The ‘chokehold’ lasted all of 15 seconds. While the hold and take down were probably contributing factors that set off the ultimate cause of his death it wasn’t just the officer’s actions. The guy was obese, asthmatic and had a very enlarged heart. Any physical exertion would have likely had the same outcome.

    I could see no excessive force used. In fact, it looked a lot milder than many that I have seen in videos or on Cops.

  5. What I have a problem with is the price. $75 million for 50K cameras equates to $1500 per camera. Really?

    I believe some of that cost if for storage and retention of the digital video.

    No probable cause that a crime may have been committed?

    Who said that? Not me. From the small amount I know of this case, I think it should have been forwarded to trial.

    In these cases, maybe it’s time to appoint a special prosecutor who does not work daily with the police being investigated.

    Perhaps.

    I could see no excessive force used. In fact, it looked a lot milder than many that I have seen in videos or on Cops.

    Could well be. Releasing details from the GJ would certainly be in the public interest.

  6. david7134 says:

    The criminal was not strangled. If you watch the video and count the seconds, you will find that the cop had his arm around the man for only a very short period. Think about this, the only, I repeat only aspect of this guys anatomy that would allow a normal sized person to hold on to the criminal was his neck. Even the man’s arms are too large. Now, I don’t need to watch the video or U-tube or any other social media to know what to do as I have had to subdue very violent people and can tell you it is not easy. I am 5’6″ and of normal weight, in other words small. Yet I have had cops defer to me to bring down a guy in the ER. All I would do was wait for an opening and put one had around his trachea, on the ground in very short order. The other thing, strangling did not occur to any significant extent as the hyoid bone was not broken and the man could talk, end of story.

    Now, lets talk about stupid liberal laws that got the man into trouble to begin with such as we have with the liberal war on drugs and other issues that do not belong in the order of government direction. And then lets talk about how cops have gotten bad everywhere and treat everyone (not just blacks) with contempt. Then lets talk about black crime and how it is way out of proportion to their population and is holding them back.

  7. Kevin says:

    I saw the chokehold, Nighthawk. I read that his death was at least partly caused by compression of the neck.

    There is certainly an argument to be made that all of those cops sitting on him contributed to his death. And there is also arguments to be made that the cops ignoring his cries of “I can’t breathe” contributed to his death. But those arguments only suggest that MORE of the cops should have been indicted, not less.

    Negligent homocide, Nighthawk. It’s almost a textbook case.

  8. gitarcarver says:

    The ‘chokehold’ lasted all of 15 seconds. While the hold and take down were probably contributing factors that set off the ultimate cause of his death it wasn’t just the officer’s actions. The guy was obese, asthmatic and had a very enlarged heart. Any physical exertion would have likely had the same outcome.

    You may be right.

    At the same time, you agree that the officers’ actions (more than one) set off the chain that led to Garner’s death. Once that chain started and Garner was in custody, the police had a legal duty to take care of him medically. They failed to do that. Witnesses said that Garner lay on the sidewalk while continuing to complain about not being able to breath and the police did nothing. That is criminally negligent homicide at the very least.

    Teach does a good job in showing why the Garner case is not like the Brown case and he is right. A couple other differences have centered around the reaction of people. If you looked at the protests last night in New York, there was no burning but there were a LOT of different races and ethnicities present. The other difference is that while many lawyers – even defense lawyers – said there was nothing to prosecute in the Brown case, the Garner case has brought attorneys out of the woodwork. Even lawyers that are typically on the side of law and order have huge problems with this case.

    To address Teach’s main point of whether body camera took a hit, Radly Balko tweeted this, which I believe sums up the argument nicely:

    Seeing lots of “Garner story shows cop cameras don’t work” tweets. But transparency isn’t meant to be a solution. Just exposes the problem.

  9. Casey says:

    gitarcarver, well said. +10.

    As for the “cautious” approach to body cameras: they may not “solve” the problem, but I’ll bet money they ameliorate it to a very large extent.

    Too many times we see objections to proposed solutions because they don’t “solve” a problem or challenge in one fell swoop. Most of the time incremental change is more effective.

    Which is one reason I oppose “comprehensive” bills, whether the subject is health care, immigration, or anything else.

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