Monday, December 1, 2014

Cop Cameras and Privacy Laws – the Great Debate

Cop Cameras and Privacy Laws – Jonah Engler 
After nearly every major media event involving a police presence, from one-on-one interactions to riot control, there comes a cry from some circles and social media - to put cameras on all cops. It sounds like a viable and reasonable solution. The “least we can do” according to many victim advocates. Still, is that the solution, and will it really solve the problem, both actual and perceived?

First, is it a viable solution? Well, we certainly have the technology to make it happen. If thrill seekers can wear GoPro cameras for just about anything, cops could attach them to their body armor without much fuss. Would there be consequences? Well, there’s no doubt the new gadgets would become targets for perps with guns…but cops are targets anyway…and center mass is where everyone with any sense aims. 

So, yes, it’s viable. But would it help? Well, on the surface, having video evidence seems to be a great way to go. But, as has been shown ad nauseum, just because you have it on video doesn’t mean it will matter. Still, could it matter? Well, yes, absolutely it could help. But what result and at what cost? While most cite statistics to back up their claims, the real enemy here is a problem ofperception…either cops are public servants or privacy leeches, depending on who you ask. Even those who pick a side have “yeah, but,” stories. There’s still a question many folks on both sides are failing to ask. What happens to all that video. 

Well, in some cases, it becomes an easily accessible part of the public record. In other words, if you go out with your boys and act up – nothing serious, just fun – but happen to get caught either as the focus or in the background of a police video, that footage is public record … forever. You can’t get it deleted. Ever. Currently a case is winding through the proper agencies in Washington State. The root of the issue is a fairly common public records request law. Just about anyone can, for a small fee, get almost all public records not currently tied up in an active investigation. All records. Including, at this point, police video. Suddenly, everyone is on COPS...for all the world to see. 

 Jonah Engler is an entrepreneur who loves to write.

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