The LASD Civilian Oversight Commission released a survey today for “community” input on what LASD’s body cam program should be like.
The survey is 18 questions, will probably take you 20-30 minutes to complete, and is full of leading and politically correct questions… So, you and other busy people probably won’t bother to do it, because you’ve got stuff to do. Except that the people who hate law enforcement, or who see LASD (like LAPD) as their toy, will do it. So we’ve got to bite the bullet and school some folks.
If you want to have any input in the rules we’re probably soon to live by, you’d best pour yourself a Titos and soda, strap in and make your views known.
Personally, our view is that while body cams will sometimes provide a helpful perspective on uses of force, they can hurt the community a lot more than help it.
- Let’s get past the idea that deputies don’t want to be on camera. In fact, they’re on camera all day anyway. Cell phone camera, CCTV, whatever. The real problem is that deputies are called to solve problems and body cams, and all the policies and expense around them, may just increase the walls between the community, not reduce them.
- Cams will likely protect deputies from made-up complaints and deputies will learn how to play to the camera, same as politicians and reporters do. Who will suffer is the community.
- Cams known to be regularly reviewed by managers will simply create an environment of micromanagement, producing rule-adhering behavior that provides a lesser service to the community than when deputies have the discretion to do their jobs as they feel appropriate.
- We should be really careful about using body cams to “shape officer behavior”. LASD does a good job of doing more with less; deputies do a good job of exercising discretion and LASD is well-liked in most of the communities it serves (especially the contracts, where LASD can be fired).
- Activists used to want the cameras but don’t as much now because of all the evidence they end up creating.
- These days, it’s mostly the media that wants body cams. Some reporters think virtually everything should be public (and who better to air it than them?).
- Civil libertarians rightly worry about the millions of hours of data stored for however long, in many cases (such as a use of force) probably forever
- In fact, it will be ordinary people who pay the price. Especially if deputies are concerned supervisors will regularly pull video, and given the huge increase under Sheriff McDonnell in firing people for failure to maintain “performance to standards”, they will follow the letter of the law rather than the spirit. This will translate into less discretion (warnings) and more arrests, especially of people at the socio-economic margins (most of whom are people of color).
- What activists and the media don’t understand is how many traffic stops and calls for service involve a situation where someone could easily be arrested but the deputy decides that isn’t how the community is best served. Body cams–particularly in a politicized disciplinary climate like at LASD–eliminates that. “Sorry, bro, I wish I could but I can’t. <points at body cam>”
- Also, we are dealing with the worst moments of peoples’ lives. That stuff just shouldn’t be on camera.
- And the stuff that should be on camera–deputy involved shootings and serious uses of force, often happen so fast that they’re easy to forget to record when your focus is on not dying.
- Beyond that, LASD management clearly cannot be trusted with body cam footage because they’re mostly a bunch of self-promoting sycophants.
- Unless we’re also down on brass wearing body cams all day, too? Since there’s more allegations of mismanagement and corruption and abuse in their ranks than ours…?
- The costs of a body cam program are *enormous* (tens of millions of dollars per year), to be borne by a county and department that cannot afford it, and it’s unclear that the value of the program will ever offset the costs to run it.
Sheriff McDonnell hasn’t asked for your opinion (duh), so at least these people are. If you don’t respond you can’t complain about the result.