The NYPD will start wearing body cameras this fall to record their interaction with the public. I am a very strong and vocal advocate of this practice, and believe it should be universal. As discussed in “A Toast to Silence”, the conversational tone and seductive lies that the police use to get from the people they stop and/or encounter evidence which causes their arrest and conviction in Court, will now be documented. It will no longer be a “he said, she said” matter. In the book are two and one half pages listing these deceptive statements cops use to get you to talk, make admissions, answer questions, and take tests; to intimidate, coerce and deceive you. In short, to get you to convict yourself.
Their deceptive statements will only grow in number as the police constantly upgrade and expand their deception techniques unless the police modify their practices; their cameras will not only document their deception, their videos will also show the often illegal conduct of the police when they go overboard as they usually do in their application of the practice of stop and frisk as the book details. The few videos to date of stopping and frisking typically show “the usual suspects”, folks of color, residents of “high crime areas” and others that fit police profiles – the police code for no real evidence.
The law requires more than “profiles” to justify a stop and frisk; it requires objective, describable facts to justify a limited pat down of the outer clothing for weapons. When the cop has describable, particularized facts, not mere hunches, or a mere profile to indicate an individual is armed, the limit of what the cop can then do is a pat down only. He/she may not enter pockets or hidden areas unless the pat down reveals a hard object that could be a weapon. The videos to date almost always show the cops doing what the law says they can’t – search – and what they usually describe as a mere pat down. The body camera will benefit all sides. Their use will put a stop to many police lies, will support the officers who tell the truth and do their job correctly, will upgrade their conduct to conform to the law, and above all, the cameras will end some of the secrecy in police work, and the unearned credibility the police currently enjoy, but often don’t deserve, as the camera often shows. The camera never lies; people do.
Finally, the use of video cameras by the police will blunt any argument against the use of video recording of police encounters by witnesses and bystanders to police interaction with their targets. If the police can video record in public, the public can, too.
Three cheers for the NYPD!!!