Matthew T. Mangino
January 20, 2017
The Chicago Police Department announced this week that by the end of the year every city police officer will wear a body camera.
Chicago is coming off of a horrendous year. The city’s homicide rate increased by 63 percent. The Laquan McDonald video sparked national outrage — Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, five of his colleagues claimed that McDonald lunged at Van Dyke with a knife, but the video showed McDonald walking away.
The Department of Justice released a scathing report this week about the Chicago Police Department finding the department engages in a pattern or practice of using force, “including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The pattern or practice results from systemic deficiencies in training and accountability … and the failure to conduct meaningful investigations of uses of force.”
Police body cameras are part of a comprehensive plan for law enforcement reform in Chicago.
Yet, on inauguration day and the Women’s rally the following day, the Washington D.C. Police will be required to turn off their body cameras. There is an ordinance in the national’s capital, supported by the ACLU, that the police may not record a protest or rally. The law was intended to protect First Amendment rights by eliminating the possibility that police may review video and use it for other intelligence purposes or to suppress “anti-government” protests.
Twenty-one states have passed laws outlining guidelines for the use of police body cameras. Those states have struggled with issues of privacy, public access and costs. The other 29 states have no framework for handling police video technology.
Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, a senior United States district judge for the Southern District of New York, wrote in “Americas Quarterly,” police departments experimenting with the use of body cameras “have produced encouraging data.”
Scheindlin, who wrote the controversial opinion that struck down New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy, cited a study out of Rialto, California. After the police in Rialto used body cameras for a year, citizen complaints dropped by 60 percent. In addition, the number of incidents that resulted in the use of force by police dropped by 88 percent. In Mesa, Arizona, use-of-force complaints decreased by 75 percent for officers using cameras in a pilot program. In Nampa, Idaho, they dropped by 24 percent, wrote Scheindlin.
Some commentators have argued that police dash cams, body cameras and cameras wielded by private citizens have exposed a pattern of misrepresentations by the police.
There are no comprehensive statistical studies of police being less than candid about arrests. As a result, it is impossible to know how often officers get away with falsehoods, wrote Albert Samaha for Buzzfeed News.
Samaha cited one rigorous study published by the University of Chicago Law Review in 1992 by Myron Orfield, now a law professor at the University of Minnesota. He surveyed dozens of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in Chicago. Fifty-two percent of them responded that prosecutors “know or have reason to know” that an officer fabricated evidence “at least half of the time.” Nearly 90 percent of prosecutors responded that they were aware of police perjury in cases “at least some of the time.”
Most importantly, body cameras have reduced the use of excessive force by the police. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology found that police officers were more cautious and risk averse when wearing body cameras. The authors, Justin Ready and Jacob Young, suggested that the reason that camera-wearing officers made fewer arrests and conducted fewer stop-and-frisks was because they thought more carefully about criminal policy and procedures.
— Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him atwww.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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