Military and Police

Police Body Cams — Giggling at Unintended Consequences

Unintended consequences can be a bitch. But it can also be a bit of schadenfreude when you’d warned the people suffering such consequences. I’m talking about police officer-worn body cameras. Unlike an officer’s other items on his or her “Bat Belt” containing radio, pepper spray, baton, or gun, cops have no say in how or when to deploy the camera—policy dictates the hows and whens. But what happens when the how and the when are all the time.

The Virginia-Pilot’s headline explains the issue well: “Police body cameras are capturing so much footage it’s driving some defense attorneys to quit.” Newport News public defender Robert Moody says, “It is completely overwhelming.”

According to the story, police agencies in Virginia deploy more than 7,300 body cameras throughout the commonwealth. Public defenders, 93 percent of them, say they simply don’t have time to review all the footage. Another 73 percent say they are “unable to do other case-related work.” So, they’re quitting. They act as if the issue had blindsided them when they were one faction calling for vehicle and officer-worn cameras. They focused on the political and neglected the technical. Let’s get the cops.

They’re lawyers, right? Went to law school and all that stuff. And what are police videos? Evidence. And what are prosecutors required to do with exculpatory evidence (beneficial to the defendant)? Turn it over to the defense. And what is the defense obligated to do? Watch every moment of that raw footage to find out if they can use anything to help their clients.

Okay, I’m no lawyer (though I played with them at work), but most cops saw this one coming. There are two reasons I giggle when I hear things like this. One, most videos exonerate officers. Two, I get to think: we told you so. Childish? Perhaps, but I’ll risk the consequences.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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