Hi, I am Attorney Ben Schwartz and this is another episode of Ten with Ben. Ten minutes of my news and views from a legal perspective.
As you know, I’m an attorney. I have a viewer that has asked me a question and basically sent me a message and showed me what he was thinking. I want to show it to you, if you can look at my cell phone. You can take a look at that and you can see the conversation we are having is about police cameras. I do not want to mention the name of the viewer, but basically he sent me this Meme, it says, “Cameras to Cops is like daylight for roaches – America’s police problem.”
He wanted to know what I thought about that.
A lot of people think that police officers ought to be wearing body cameras. In some jurisdictions, in some states and some cities, wearing a body cam is voluntary. In some places it’s mandatory. It’s been a big issue, I know, up in Boston & it’s been a big issue in D.C. The viewer asked me to do a video and say what my position was on police officers wearing body cameras.
I did a little research on the situation and I read the news, I pay attention to things. There are a couple of news articles that I read and I printed out just so I could share them with you and if you want you can look them up. We will put a link in the show notes to these articles. One is a New York Times article, this is titled body cameras have little effect on police behavior. At the end of 2017 a study came out and they had put body cameras on 2000 police officers in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. They did a study to see if having body cams on all the 2000 cops would reduce the complaints relating to bad behavior by police. The study found it did not have any effect at all.
A lot of people were shocked because they sort of assumed that if you put body cameras on police, there would not be any police overreaching, there would not be any abusive behavior by the police. But basically, the study said it doesn’t make any difference at all. Another article that I read was more of an opinion piece on forbes.com. It was written by Michael Durkheimer, who is the contributor to Forbes and it is titled, “why don’t police body cameras work like we expected?” I think that the conclusion that this opinion piece came to is because you we have this conception that there is a big problem with police abusing people and overreaching and doing things wrong and when you put the body cams on police and there is no change in the number of complaints, maybe you need to look at your assumptions. Maybe the police aren’t doing anything wrong. I don’t know, I personally have a hard time believing that every police officer out there is never going to lose control. I have a hard time believing that every police officer is going to follow the law, follow the Constitution to a “T.” I know a lot of police officers. I’ve have had a lot of criminal defense cases. I am not here to bash cops, but at the same time, I know that not every police officer is going to act like a cub scout out on the streets where the stakes are life or death.
Here is my position. Do I think police officers ought to be wearing body cameras? All I can say is, if I were a police officer, would I want to be wearing a body camera? Without a doubt. I am not a cop, I am not trained as a cop. My experience with the criminal justice system is limited to being an attorney. In having worked in the criminal justice system doing criminal defense cases and trying cases, and learning about police procedures in that way. In my practice, I use a private investigator. If someone comes to me, if a family comes to me and they want to hire me to represent somebody in a murder case or a rape case or robbery case I need, as a criminal defense attorney, I need to interview Witnesses. I am not going to do it myself. I am going to send out a private investigator. What I really want is for my private investigator to go out and tape record or video record the interviews with the victim, alleged victim, with the witnesses, with anybody who might be able to provide some defense testimony, some information that could help me get my client out of a jam.
If the people getting interviewed are not going to give helpful information, I want my investigator to interview him anyways and pin him down on the details. Often times, when you have an alleged victim or witness saying that my client did something, often times if we get a very detailed statement from them after the event happened, when they show up at trial and they testify and they have been prepped by the prosecutor, sometimes the story changes. Sometimes the details change. I have had this happen over and over again. So I like to get my private investigator, witnesses, and the alleged victim. But I have given instructions to the private investigator that I work with that when you drive to this person’s house that you are going to interview, or you drive to their workplace, or even before you approach them, before you get out of your car, start recording. The reason is because I want video tape or audio tape from the point you roll up on the scene to get out of your car, to the point where you get back in your car and you are ready to drive away. I want that because it’s a question of our own protection.
I have personally had cases where my investigator goes out to interview a witness or an alleged victim in a crime and they complain that my investigator kicked-in the door and force them to make a statement when they did not want to, when that is not true. So we started videotaping and audio taping from the point where the investigator is in in the car, ready to get out of the car, all the way to the point where he’s back in the car and driving away. We capture everything because witnesses and alleged victims lie. So my position is, if you are a cop, I cannot imagine why you would not want to have a body cam. It does not make any sense to me. To me, it is for your own protection. You should have a body cam. I do not understand this debate about whether the body cam cuts down on police misconduct. If you are a cop, what in the world would make you not want to have a body cam. I don’t understand.
So that’s my thoughts on this situation. I would be very interested if you are a police officer or if you are in the administration of Justice business, I would be very interested if you leave me a comment and let me know what you think. If you are someone who is not a police officer and you are not involved in the administration of Justice, but maybe you have been a defendant in a criminal case, leave a comment and give us your thoughts. Thanks for watching, this is Ten with Ben. I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz and I am solely responsible for the content of this video. This is not an advertisement and if you’d like to get ahold of me send me an email.