“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Winston Churchill
Apparently, a lot of people think that police-worn body cameras are a tool to be used to make law enforcement more transparent and accountable. And they are partially correct. The problem is, that if we are to use police body cameras to simply make officers act nicer or to enforce the law on police officers in regards to the use of force and other issues, we are missing a bigger picture and a better reason to utilize this technology.
You see, if we are going to use body cams to curtail dirty cops or to police the police, then we have done very little to prevent crime, enforce the law, secure the community or build relationships. If we are going to use them so we can have the video released to the public as fodder for every anti-police group in the country, again, we have missed the mark and the very purpose.
If we are going to utilize this tech in order to protect those that protect and serve, to create transparency in the community, not just in the department, as a means of correcting reports from both sides and a way to determine the TRUTH, then we have a program that will work.
See, it is about TRUTH, not TARGETING.
“They should wear them so we know what they are doing!”
“We should wear them so we can prove that they needed discipline!”
“They shouldn’t wear them because it invades my privacy!”
“I don’t want them because they limit my ability to do what’s necessary sometimes…”
What we need is to stop making these cameras about TARGETING whoever is wearing them or in front of them. We need to stop protesting them simply because they invade a perceived privacy that has not existed since the invention of the picture phone anyway.
We need to start ALL being interested in the truth.
Studies are coming out that prove body cameras are not changing police behavior and they are certainly not changing the actions of civilians. A study from Washington D.C. last month showed no discernible impacts from the use of over 2000 police officers using cameras. What we DO know is that at the end of the day, the truth has become available. Sometimes we will like it, sometimes we will not. Sometimes it may result in a commendation for one and a conviction for the other, but it may also result in the indictment of an officer and the freedom of the wrongly accused.
We have to be okay with that because we are America and despite the disrespect, the conspiracy theories, the politics and the apathy, we still are a country that was founded by a document that stated “We hold these truths…”. You see, truth used to be really important. We fought, bled and died for things we thought were true. Now, more often than most, we will fight for what we WISH was true before even investigating whether or not we have factual information.
With all this said, departments across this country fight the fight of educating the public. They fight the fight of having the concept of body cams accepted. They fight the lack of funds and the staggering costs involved in processing and storing data. They fight the reality that these cams could reveal something in their own circle of trusted colleagues.
But they are also fighting the urge to stop policing or enforcing because the cost of being accused themselves has risen too high. They fight the frustration of “he said she said” court testimonies that allow criminals back on the streets. They fight the lack of TRUTH.
Perhaps there will someday be a more affordable and more efficient way of policing, but until then, body cams seem to be the medication for a severe lack of truth, trust and morale both in the law enforcement circle and the neighborhood streets.
Today, we were approached by a police department that has raised about all the funds they can get from their small community in order to purchase two body cams. What they require is a champion; someone to help them match those funds, someone that believes that truth is a good investment no matter where it is.
If you believe you are that champion, we are looking for someone to pick up this new campaign idea so we can add it to our “Current Missions” and begin what could be a fast growing national program that creates financial assistance to police departments and communities with the desire to make a change but simply do not have the money or budget.
Please, if you are this person, contact us via our website so we can begin. We have one department waiting…
Writer's Note: As I wrote this blog this evening, officer Ken Copeland, a veteran of the San Marcos, Texas Police Department was shot and killed in the line of duty. May he rest in peace and may his life be honored by what we do here.