- - Tuesday, August 7, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Cop haters were no doubt disappointed when a police video showed clearly that the man shot and killed by police officers last month in Chicago was reaching for a gun.

Protesters in Chicago organized swiftly after the fatal shooting, and hit the street and demonstrated against evil cops shooting unharmed black men. Rocks and bottles were thrown, and the police stepped in to quell the violence.

The Chicago police superintendent released the police body-worn camera video in response to cries that the man, Harith Augustus, was unarmed. The police footage shows that he had a semi-automatic handgun in a holster on his hip and that he turned toward the pursuing officers with his hand on his waist. He was shot multiple times by the officers.

The released police footage pauses and zooms in on the handgun, which a police spokesperson said documents that the gun was seen clearly by the officers on the scene. Initial reports indicate that Harith Augustus did not have a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

This past May in Texas a woman accused a Texas state trooper of sexually assaulting her after the trooper pulled her over. The woman, Sherita Dixon-Cole, failed a field sobriety test and she later claimed the trooper told her she could avoid arrest by granting him sexual favors. She said she refused and then the trooper forced several sexual acts upon her. Her complaint was quite detailed and graphic.

But then the Texas Department released the video from the trooper’s body-worn camera, which conflicts drastically with her false and vivid account. The footage shows the trooper being totally professional with the inebriated woman.

Last year in Burlington, Vermont, an 18-year-old woman claimed officers sexually assaulted her and she accused them of police brutality when she was arrested in a store parking lot.

Following the accusations, police body-worn camera footage from two officers refute her claims. The young woman and two other women were found passed out in a running car in the parking lot. The police also found alcohol, marijuana and a bong in the car.

The footage from the police body cameras shows a disturbed and troubled young woman doing cartwheels and attempting forcefully to take back the bong from an officer. When the officer placed her under arrest for disorderly conduct, she kicked the officer and screamed and shouted obscenities.

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said the video illustrated his officer showed incredible restraint. The young woman was also charged with assaulting a police officer.

Of course, police body cameras also capture on video police misconduct and abuse of authority. This past March the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office in North Carolina announced that a police officer was seen on his body-worn camera beating a man and he has been charged with assault, communicating threats and other offensives.

The video, taken last year, showed the former officer, Chris Hickman, chasing a man, knocking him to the ground and then beating him.

A study of police officer body-worn cameras with the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department in October 2017, called “Evaluating the Effects of Body-Worn Camera,” involved 2,224 officers. The study concluded that wearing body-worn cameras resulted in no statistically significant effects. The study noted that the body-worn cameras were costly and stated that police departments should not expect dramatic reductions in police misconduct or civilian complaints.

An earlier study by the U.S. Justice Department, called “Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program,” stated that when implemented correctly, body-worn cameras can help strengthen the policing profession. “These cameras can help promote agency accountability and transparency, and they can be useful tools for increasing officer professionalism, improving officer training, preserving evidence, and documenting encounters with the police.”

The study also noted the fact that nearly everyone carries a cell phone.

“Given that police now operate in a world in which anyone with a cell phone can record video footage of a police encounter, body-worn cameras help police departments ensure events are also captured from an officer’s perspective.”

Lt. Dan Mark of the Aurora Police Department in Colorado noted in the study the benefits of a body-worn camera program. “My opinion is that body-worn cameras will help with community relationships. They will show when officers are doing a good job and help us correct when they aren’t. This is good for the community.”

Body-worn cameras have debunked false civilian complaints against officers and recorded police officer misconduct. The footage illustrates clearly why police officers should wear body-worn cameras and why the public should want them to.

• Paul Davis is a writer who covers crime, espionage and terrorism.


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