Posts Tagged ‘criminal justice’

Police body cameras have numerous methods for operation – everything from the style of camera to the storage options. For example, TASER offers cameras that can be attached to a shirt, to belts, or to shirt pockets as well as a glasses style option, and an attachable camera for a conducted electrical weapon. Go Pros have also been used as a form recording option however they have storage limitations. For example, the Go Pros require the officer to have ample storage in the form of an SD Card to store the video, which is later, transferred to a central database, which must then be organized, demanding additional resources and funding. Companies like TASER have an option for video footage to be automatically uploaded onto www.evidence.com, which charges a nominal fee for unlimited storage.

Currently they are on for the entire duration of the officer’s shift. There are many police departments that are utilizing body-mounted cameras, with many planning on adopting in the near future. Calgary Police have been one of the newest Canadian departments to implement the use of cameras on the majority of its 800 members.

Body cameras are intended to make the police more accountable for their actions to the public; however this has also turned out as a benefit for the police as cameras help to ensure that the public is also held liable for false claims. Police, however, aren’t the only ones adopting cameras, many corrections departments in the United States are equipping their officers with cameras inside of living units.

Currently, the individual field officer has control over the recording process, being able to start and stop a recording (either at the beginning and end of the shift, or at the start and end of a call). The officer also has control over the SD card (depending on the model of camera worn) where the officer can claim that the SD card somehow went missing. Implementing a body camera system for an entire force costs an immense amount of money. The upfront cost includes the cost of each camera (app. $400 each) plus training for all officers and additional training for a resources officer that would manage the massive amount of data. The costs for a storage infrastructure with backup (RAID format) would be mind blowing. The department would need hundreds, if not thousands of terabytes to store footage for any reasonable amount of time. On top of the up front costs, there are ongoing costs for maintaining the infrastructure, having an officer(s) to continually organize through the data.

There are many companies that produce body mounted cameras. Large companies like TASER have been very successful in marketing their product, to smaller companies like WOLFCOM are producing this technology.

Body mounted cameras came about because of the increasing reports of police abusing their power – ranging from being unprofessional to brutality. One of the most effective catalysts in the push for more accountability and ultimately body-mounted cameras was the death of Robert Dziekański at YVR, where he was tased excessively and died as a result. There was public outcry in determining responsibility for the death. There have been many other situations in pushing for body cameras, all of which are very significant.

There are many groups, and movements calling for more officers wearing cameras, but the most notable of which being U.S. President Obama. Obama wants to equip 50,000 officers with cameras in three years, with a total cost of $263 million. http://www.fastcompany.com/3039230/president-obama-wants-to-put-body-cameras-on-50000-police-officers

“The White house has spent three months reviewing law enforcement practices” (Gayomali, 2014) and put together a package for many departments. This is the first time that the federal government has decided to fund county and state agencies for cameras. Surprisingly, not many Police Chiefs or Sheriffs are opposed to the concept of body cameras. Most of the skepticism comes from frontline officers who may not be able to conduct their daily duties the way that they did previously. Some officers may have been behaving in a manner that would not reflect well on a department in order do their job, and they will have to change their behavior because there will be recordings of their behavior. As Goldsmith said, the video alone is not enough to create change, but is only a catalyst for it. When something negative happens, the officers and organization are put into the spotlight and are then forced to make a change because of the proof available to everyone.

Personally, I am for body cameras; as it will for the large part, make the public accountable to the police and the police accountable to the public.

Bibliography

Gayomali, C. (2014, Dec 01). FastCompany. Retrieved Feb 10, 2015, from PRESIDENT OBAMA WANTS TO PUT BODY CAMERAS ON 50,000 POLICE OFFICERS : http://www.fastcompany.com/3039230/president-obama-wants-to-put-body-cameras-on-50000-police-officers

Jayme Doll, M. S. (2014, Nov 05). Do Calgary police face recognition software, body-worn cameras violate your privacy? Retrieved Feb 09, 2015, from Global News: http://globalnews.ca/news/1655076/calgary-police-use-of-new-technologies-being-probed/

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Body Cameras, The solution?

Posted: February 12, 2015 by mattwagner5 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

In the new generation of police visibility, the ones under the microscope must look at a means to defend themselves from the implications social media can have over an interaction with the public. To combat police abuse of power and false claims against them, some organizations have implemented body cameras to be worn during an officer’s shift, and record interactions with the public. This specialized technology marks the second of its kind after the police dashboard cams were introduced.  Body camera technology provides the public with an accountability reform for police officers who step out of line, but also allows the officer to have concrete backup in demanding situations.

Tazer, a company that produces stun guns also developed a new age camera called the Axon Flex. This camera allows for what they call a “full shift buffer” meaning this camera allows for a full 12+ hours of recording. Tazer also offers a secure data store network that can be used to safely store any evidence that needs to be protected. General cost of the cameras is $599 and $15 dollars a month for their secure data storage. Usually attached the lapel of an officer the Axon Flex is also designed to be fixed to a pair of glasses, and both large and smaller utility belts. While Tazer is not the only company that makes this sort of device they are currently the only ones offering a wide angle view. This wide angle view is advertised as being able to capture more than any other camera out there.

The purpose of these body cameras is to improve transparency while also being able to hold both parties accountable for their actions. For body cameras to have the greatest impact is to make sure that police are not able to “edit on the fly”. Meaning that the officer is not able to chose when to record and when not to (Stanley, 2013). (Stanley, 2013) says, “If police are free to turn the cameras on and off as they please, the cameras’ role in providing a check and balance against police power will shrink and they will no longer become a net benefit.” Also, police must insure that these devices do not impinge on a person’s right to privacy. This means a few things such as, the police must inform the person’s they are recording that they are in fact doing so, they must not record in a home unless it is an emergency, and recordings must be accessible to all parities pending an investigation. (Jones, 2015).

In this new age of media frenzied individuals it only seems fit that police must evolve their tactics to fit the needs of the world today. Police abuse of power has long been talked about, but with no actual evidence against them the word of an officer is held in high regard compared to that of a civilian during any formal complaint. Certain events such as that of Rodney King, Robert Dziekanski, and the death in Ian Tomlinson at the G20 summit in London have been just a few circumstances that have put the police on blast in the media. (Goldsmith, 2010) talks about how the Rodney King incident was the first of its kind to shock the world with police brutality in an “unpredicted manner”. Because of this explosion in social media and almost everything being recorded, police are virtually forced into the need for body cameras. Police body cameras not only help to defend the public, but also aid the officer.

In early December President Barack Obama announced that he will be funding $263 million dollars for police worn body cameras. This means they would be able to purchase ~50,000 cameras for officers. The president of the United States is not the only body who feels the need for police body cameras is high. Civil liberty organizations such as Advocates for people with addictions and mental illnesses and even the Ottawa Police Association feel that body-worn cameras will boost transparency by forcing police officers to be more self-aware about using force against vulnerable individuals. The most common thought reported about the videos of police reported to Youtube is that “those videos do not tell the full story” (CBC, 2012). If more police worn body cameras were introduced this would help reduce the rate of frivolous complaints.

On the other side of the coin we must consider the negative implications body cameras can create. Having your every move and every word you say recorded can be very stressful on and individual, especially when your job is one of the hardest there is. Some potential drawbacks officers discussed are that it could harm their work production. Because many officers deal with confidential informants they are worried that with a body camera recording, these people will not want to engage with the officers anymore, and in turn this will reduce productivity (Lopez, 2015). Another problem police officers see with this is the “big brother” effect. This is caused because the officers feel they are always being watched. Officers are worried that the footage may be used against them in terms of “petty or political problems” (Lopez, 2015). With that being said about the officers the everyday public also has some concerns of their own. Some are worried that they are going to have their privacy impinged upon. This would include being filmed every second that an officer is around. To take that point further when an officer arrives at your home which is a public place they are worried about being recorded in what is your own private space (Stanley, 2013). All of these are valid points which need to be controlled for with some serious policy negotiation.

In my personal opinion I believe police worn body cameras can be a positive for everyone if they are implemented properly. They have the potential to reduce use of force complaints and offer a visual to go with a story. Body cameras will give a clearer picture if used properly and can even (fingers crossed) help mold a better reputation in the public’s eye of these organizations. To combat some of the officers concerns with the camera being on continuously we need to allow them the control to know when to activate the device. We trust these men and women to protect and serve our cities, so why not trust them to turn on a camera? In the future I believe the body camera will become as much a part of the utility belt as a pair of handcuffs is today. Cameras also offering a higher accountability reform for police officers. If they know they are being recorded they are more likely to act by the book and stick to policies.

With technology changing every day, so must the police. Body cameras are a possible solution to numerous problems, and like anything they have a set of issues them self. These may not be the solution to everything but they are a start in the right direction. Offering better transparency and a higher form of accountability in terms of abuse of power, body cameras have many benefits. It’s not a question of if cameras will be implemented, but when.

References

CBC. (2012, January 12). Police union wants video cameras for officers. Retrieved from CBC News: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/police-union-wants-video-cameras-for-officers-1.1169024

Goldsmith, A. J. (2010). Policings New Visibility. Brit. J. Criminol , 914-934.

Jones, S. (2015, January 21). Proposed legislation aims to regulate use of police body cameras in Virginia. Retrieved from CBS6: http://wtvr.com/2015/01/21/proposed-legislation-aims-to-regulate-use-of-police-body-cameras-in-virginia/

Lopez, G. (2015, January 13). Why police should wear body cameras — and why they shouldn’t. Retrieved from Vox: http://www.vox.com/2014/9/17/6113045/police-worn-body-cameras-explained
Stanley, J. (2013, October). Police Body-Mounted Cameras:. 1-6.

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The Role of Police in Wrongful Convictions in Canada

The wrongful conviction of innocent people has gradually been recognized over the last quarter of a century as a problem for the Canadian criminal justice system. It is extremely difficult to determine the number of wrongful convictions in Canada. One of the major aspects of wrongful convictions is the tunnel vision; it results when there is a narrow focus on a limited range of alternatives. Tunnel vision is insidious and it results in the police officer becoming so confused upon an individual or incident that no other person or incident register’s in the officer’s thoughts.

While conducting an initial Google search on the topic “The Role of Police in Wrongful Convictions in Canada”, a number of interesting cases emerged. One of the result was a news article published by CBC news that highlights some major cases in Canadian history. This article has twelve cases and a brief description for each case and it is fairly recent because it was updated in October/2010.

An interesting case that was found during the preliminary research done on the topic is the case of Donald Marshall Jr case. The late Mr. Marshall was as a young Aboriginal man from Nova Scotia imprisoned 11 years for a murder he did not commit. The Marshall case was the subject of the first public inquiry into a wrongful conviction in Canada. The inquiry first raised awareness about wrongful convictions and it also made important recommendations about how to prevent them in the future.

Another interesting case was found is the case of Tammy Marquardt A young single mother from Ontario who was imprisoned for 13 years for the murder of her two and one half year son on the basis of erroneous forensic pathology expert testimony that the cause of her son’s death was asphyxia.

These two case studies illustrate the two main ways that wrongful convictions are revealed in Canada. Donald Marshall’s murder conviction was overturned after the federal Minister of Justice granted his petition for a new appeal on the basis of fresh evidence and after Marshall had exhausted appeals all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Tammy Marquardt’s wrongful conviction was overturned when the Supreme Court of Canada granted her leave to make a late and normally out of time appeal. The Court of Appeal then held that the murder conviction could was a miscarriage of justice in light new forensic pathology evidence that the case of death was not asphyxia but unascertained. A new trial was ordered, but the prosecutor withdrew charges and the trial judge apologized for what happened to Ms. Marquardt and her son. Both Marquardt and Marshall were granted bail pending their new appeal based on fresh evidence.

The police play a critical role in almost all wrongful convictions. In the Donald Marshall Jr. case discussed above, the police virtually framed Donald Marshall, using oppressive tactics against young and unstable witnesses until they were prepared to perjure themselves and falsely testify that they saw Marshall stab Seale. The local police also persisted in their belief that Marshall had to be guilty even after a companion of the real killer came forth shortly after Marshall’s 1971 conviction and told them that Marshall was innocent. Police influence and participate in witness error in two ways: by failing to detect it when a witness first offers it, or by deliberately forcing or encouraging a witness to change his or her testimony. Police failure to detect witness error is often a product of tunnel vision: if the misleading evidence fits police theory or biases, it may not be rigorously examined. All the articles that were found during the preliminary research; none of them had any response from the police in them. Something that was noticeably missing is that there was nothing mentioned about the police apology.