Cops on camera
All around the U.S right now, our news screens are inundated with the latest "disturbing images" of police officers, Deputies, Marshals etc doing something that the public questions. Most of what we are seeing is from rudimentary, amateur footage shot from somebody's cell phone, that does not always paint a clear picture. The footage often won't tell the whole story of the officer or the offender, yet provides superb material for biased (from both sides) opinions to be formed
A one sided story
Imagine watching your favorite action or crime movie. Imagine that whole plot that you enjoy, so well written out with developed characters so that you, the viewer, has a clear understanding of what is going on and why. Now imagine taking the most action packed scene, plotting a single camera somewhere nearby, maybe out of a window or through some railings to capture that one scene. None of the build up, no background information, just probably people getting killed or arrested for no apparent reason. Because we can't see the whole story. It is just a glimpse of what is occurring when the first person to get their camera out started recording. As consumers of mainstream media, we are generally given the video footage of the clip or pictures, and then we are blasted with banners about "Outrage" and "Justice" being demanded. Then some other footage follows of someone grieving, or maybe some local protesters. Naturally, we align emotionally with what we are seeing. Now the police are bad, they have gone crazy, Now I want justice! We are being conditioned to get emotionally involved and make judgements based on that small clip that the news shows us.
Policing is changing, (whether you like it or not)
With many of these incidents being broadcasted on television recently, there is a seemingly unanimous cry from the public to film a police officer's every move. I started my policing career nearly ten years ago,in London, England, and the idea back then of somebody filming me at work was not always met with any kind of pleasure, instead, I was almost indignant that someone saw fit to film me at work. Even when I knew I was doing nothing wrong. There is an old school mentality still, even as I continue my policing career in the U.S among cops that cameras "will get you fired" or "are nothing but trouble". Well the thing is that that is not necessarily untrue. If you are not doing what you are supposed to do, and you are wearing a camera, it may well get you in to trouble, fired or worse, indicted.
This is my counter argument to fellow officers; Times have changed. Hopefully none of us are naïve enough to think that we are still policing in the early 2000s or 1990s. When you are going about your official duties, you need to know that every single person around you is a potential camera man/woman. If they are old enough to hold a phone, you can bet they can hold a camera, and they will. Going back to what I said about the "full picture". This "film a cop" mentality is not going away. Technology is only going to make it easier to film, and until law enforcement gets a break from the spotlight, people will be only too eager to try to catch you messing up. A personally worn body camera is the only way I see us being able to paint fairer, fuller pictures for the public when we are scrutinized. I know as a cop that we don't want to fight people. We don't want to shoot people. But we are in a time now, when public opinion will rest on a bystander's 20 second clip of you God- forbid having to shoot somebody. I will promise you that if you are following the law, and local policy, wearing your own body camera, you will be eternally grateful. We owe it to ourselves and our profession to embrace body worn cameras.
Proud to be a movie star
Many of us have always been told to go about our lives as if someone was watching. This applies now more than ever to us Peace Officers. We are, and should be proud of the job we do, if we are doing it correctly, we should not have to fear the repercussions of body worn cameras.
We do not need to change what we are doing, just help the public understand what we do, why we do it and how. What better illustrates that than a full feature video?