Monday, October 18, 2010

So who do they think the cops work for, again?

I'm sure you might have guessed my reaction to this:

Stung by the rough treatment of his father during a 1987 traffic stop by another California department, (Diop) Kamau turned to a second career recording police across the country in compromising — often abusive — encounters with the public.

...Starting with the grainy images first broadcast by Kamau and other pioneer citizen watchdogs — notably the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, shot by a nearby resident— the public surveillance of cops has exploded to potentially include anyone with a cellphone.

The videos are so ubiquitous that analysts and police debate whether they are serving the public interest — or undermining public trust in law enforcement and even putting officers' lives in jeopardy.

Why do serving the public interest and undermining the public trust have to be mutually exclusive? To the extent that the videos undermine public trust, it's only because of certain officers' misbehavior that's caught on those videos a la the Rodney King incident.  Said trust is only further undermined, of course, by the cops circling the wagons:
In some communities, police are fighting back by enforcing laws that limit such recordings. Other departments are seeking new training for officers to prepare for the ever-present surveillance on the street.

"The proliferation of cheap video equipment is presenting a whole new dynamic for law enforcement," says Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest police union. "It has had a chilling effect on some officers who are now afraid to act for fear of retribution by video. This has become a serious safety issue. I'm afraid something terrible will happen."
Chilling effect? Why? If the officer does the right thing it'll all come out in the wash. Maybe police academies ought to start further emphasizing to recruits not to do anything they wouldn't want to be caught doing on video. What is Mr. Pasco so afraid of? The discovery of more officers like Jon Burge and Anthony Abbate -- thugs in uniform for whom he's personally covered up? Sorry, but that's the only reason I can think of that any law enforcement officers would opposed being videotaped while they're doing their jobs. You'd think they had something to hide with the stink about this some of them are raising.