Thursday, July 14, 2016

Time for copcams

In the wake of Tuesday's killing by police, people are calling for cop-cams:

A criminal barrister is calling for police to wear body cameras which would record incidents such as police shootings as they unfold.


Criminal barrister Michael Bott said there were many questions about what happened which could be answered by body cameras.

"If the police, for example, had video cameras recording their interactions with people, such as the deceased so we could actually make an objective inquiry, we've got credible evidence as opposed to the words of various witnesses."

Its a good idea. In the US, copcams show us that police officers routinely lie. A video record is a check on their behaviour and any abuse of power. In this case, it would have given the required investigation solid evidence on whether the dead man had a gun or not, allowing them to determine whether the police officers should be charged with murder.

There are evidential issues - iPhone video was recently disallowed due to it not meeting the requirements of the Evidence Act. But this can be solved (largely by the police bringing their video storage in-house, rather than entrusting it to a foreign corporation). And it would give us greater oversight and therefore greater trus tin police, while allowing those who abuse their power to be weeded out.

(And as I write this, the police have shot and possibly killed someone else. Again, it doesn't matter if it is a "good" or "bad" shooting - the regular use of lethal force by police creates significant ethical issues around cooperating with them. If you provide information to the police in certain types of cases, there's now a non-zero chance that you will be complicit in a killing. And the morally safest way to handle that is to refuse to provide any information at all).