Durham police plan public forums on body cameras

benbruFrom News and Observer

The Durham Police Department will hold a series of public forums to get feedback on the idea of having its officers wear body cameras.

The department is now field-testing body cameras that could eventually become standard issue for all patrol officers. Police Chief Jose L. Lopez says the department wants to hear from the public before making any decisions.

“The feedback we get from the listening sessions will weigh heavily on any decision that is made in reference to body cameras,” Lopez said in a statement. “We want to hear directly from residents and encourage them to voice their ideas, priorities and even concerns about the cameras.”

Several other law enforcement agencies in the Triangle, including the Chapel Hill and Garner police departments and the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, are testing and evaluating body cameras for officers. Police in Knightdale and Hillsborough already use them. Continue reading

Carrboro police don’t want to warn people they are being filmed

Carrboro Officer David Deshaies holds out one of the first body cameras he tested. Deshaies said the police department has tried out a series of models over the last year and a half, looking for one that can withstand the ruggedness of modern police work.
Carrboro Officer David Deshaies holds out one of the first body cameras he tested. Deshaies said the police department has tried out a series of models over the last year and a half, looking for one that can withstand the ruggedness of modern police work.

From The Carrboro Commons

The Carrboro Police Department is putting the finishing touches on a policy to govern body-worn cameras, wrapping up more than a year’s worth of work.

Police Capt. Chris Atack said he recently made another round of edits to the draft of the policy unveiled last month to address concerns raised by the Board of Aldermenand residents during a March 24 public hearing. While most of the edits were minor changes, Atack said he was also responding to a more controversial recommendation from the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, backed by some aldermen, to require police to tell people when they are being recorded.

“That’s one of the issues that needs to be discussed further,” Atack said.

Atack said he worries the disclosure requirement would jeopardize officer safety. Some people become more agitated and violent when they know a camera is rolling, he said.

“I think there’s a difference of opinion there for a lot of reasons,” Atack said. Continue reading

Black America’s State of Surveillance

blackamericaFrom The Progressive

Ten years ago, on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, my mother, a former Black Panther, died from complications of sickle cell anemia. Weeks before she died, the FBI came knocking at our door, demanding that my mother testify in a secret trial proceeding against other former Panthers or face arrest. My mother, unable to walk, refused. The detectives told my mother as they left that they would be watching her. They didn’t get to do that. My mother died just two weeks later.

My mother was not the only black person to come under the watchful eye of American law enforcement for perceived and actual dissidence. Nor is dissidence always a requirement for being subject to spying. Files obtained during a break-in at an FBI office in 1971 revealed that African Americans, J. Edger Hoover’s largest target group, didn’t have to be perceived as dissident to warrant surveillance. They just had to be black. As I write this, the same philosophy is driving the increasing adoption and use of surveillance technologies by local law enforcement agencies across the United States.

Today, media reporting on government surveillance is laser-focused on the revelations by Edward Snowden that millions of Americans were being spied on by the NSA. Yet my mother’s visit from the FBI reminds me that, from the slave pass system to laws that deputized white civilians as enforcers of Jim Crow, black people and other people of color have lived for centuries with surveillance practices aimed at maintaining a racial hierarchy.  Continue reading

Carrboro Aldermen Examine Guidelines for Police Body Cameras

boa

From Chapelboro

Carrboro police officers may soon be required to wear cameras on their bodies.

Last year’s incidents in Ferguson and New York invigorated conversations across the nation about police misconduct and racial discrimination. Earlier this month the United States Department of Justice issued a damning report on Ferguson police, finding explicit racial bias among officers against African Americans (including racist emails sent by officers).

At Tuesday’s Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting, Member Michelle Johnson said body cameras will not end police racial profiling. But some think body cameras could reduce police misconduct by recording interactions between officers and the public.

Carrboro officials have been discussing police body cameras for the last half year. Carrboro’s draft policy sets guidelines for use of cameras and management of the video taken. Continue reading

How Police Body Cameras Were Designed to Get Cops Off the Hook

bodycam1From GIZMODO

In the wake of protests over police violence against black men, many civil rights activists are calling for a high-tech solution: strapping wearable body cameras to cops. The idea is to hold police accountable for unnecessary violence. But the history of police body cams reveals that the devices have often had the opposite effect.

On the afternoon of March 1st, a band of Los Angeles Police shot a homeless man. Video of the incident was captured by both a witness armed with a cell phone, and by body cameras strapped to the officers. Despite the evidence, what actually happened on Skid Row before police shot Charly Keunang remains a matter of dispute. How it went down depends on who you ask — and, more importantly, on whose video you’re watching.

The civilian shot video from a short distance away, and the footage shows officers circling Keunang before a physical struggle erupts. Keunang is thrown to the ground. Officers struggle to contain him. He’s resisting but subdued. He’s not going anywhere but he hasn’t been cuffed. Then after some yelling, three officers open fire. Continue reading

Seen It All Before: 10 Predictions About Police Body Cameras

An NYPD officer models a body camera at a press event on Thursday.
An NYPD officer models a body camera at a press event on Thursday.

From The Atlantic

A strange coalition has formed around the police officer-worn body camera.

Their ubiquitous adoption is the sole policy change requested by the family of Michael Brown, the teenager who was fatally shot by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Police departments, too, hail body cameras, saying that they will shield officers from false claims of wrongdoing. Endorsed by law enforcement agencies, police reformists, and equipment vendors, body cameras seem to promise accountability at a time when police power seems untouchable.

Faced with cultural and political issues that can seem intractable, the U.S. has suddenly and rapidly adopted the little lenses and, with them, a new surveillance regime. President Obama earlier this week announced $263 million in funding to purchase 50,000 body cameras for local police agencies. Continue reading

A Short Script on On-Officer Wearable Cameras and Civilian Complaints

roomFrom Ben Brucato

The scene is an interrogation room. A small room with brick walls, painted in light green-grey. A two-way mirror is on one wall and a surveillance camera is mounted in the corner. 

In the center of the room is a table with a chair on either side. An empty chair is on the side of the table facing a closed door. In the other chair is John, a Black male in his early twenties, wearing a black t-shirt, jeans, and some dried blood around one bruised eye. 

An officer in uniform, named Dick, enters the room and sits at the table across from John.

John: Look, I’m not talking to you without my lawyer.

Dick: I understand.

John: No, I don’t think you understand. I want to talk to a white shirt and file a complaint for what you did to me.

Dick: Look, John, we got you for driving without insurance, which is going to cause enough problems for you. But I want to show you something else…

Dick pulls a small device from his duty belt. It looks like a smart phone, only larger and more ‘heavy duty.’ He presses a button and a video begins to play.

Continue reading