Bill William Arganda’s view:
In light of the evident diminishing public opinion and trust for law enforcement, we have seen an overwhelming call for more accountability, transparency and scrutinization of all police conduct and actions. Over and over, the media provides a platform for those demanding this change, most recently, the trending call for mandatory body cameras for police. Ironically enough, this call for justice, I believe, was intended to protect the public from police overreaching their authority. However, considering the negative growing view against police, perhaps the cameras will serve a greater (or equal) purpose protecting the police from unnecessary allegations of misconduct.
Ideally, body cameras appear to be a sound means to discover and define facts of events; in theory, it does just that, but how efficient or limiting is this approach? One camera is one view, one angle and one limited view of facts that may not always define the whole story. We know that legally speaking there are countless variables that come into play when determining mind set, intent, fear and perceived necessity…these are some of the important elements that must be present to both justify police action, as well as proving criminal action.
Although we get a definitive view of events caught on camera, did we get the entire view of what truly occurred? How comparable, different, better or worse is footage from one camera angle compared to that of a witness statement? An assumed response would be that camera footage is factual, compared to that of a person’s perception of what they believed happened and how they processed the event. Sounds logical to say and believe, but how accurate is that without understanding the limited scope one camera angle reveals, or better yet, doesn’t entirely reveal.
Depending upon the camera system police use and or the policy and protocol they implement, cameras sometimes aren’t activated until an officer exits his or her vehicle, or, only after the officer remembers to activate the camera. Even in the event the camera catches an event from start to finish, how much of the event did it really capture?
One camera angle captures one limited view, and scope, of an event, yet those that view that footage base a total conclusion and judgment of the entire event on that limited information….why? Because logically (perhaps naively) we perceive camera footage as sound fact; there’s that old adage “the camera doesn’t lie.” It really doesn’t lie, but are we lying to ourselves by believing limited footage tells the totality of events? We allow that one aspect of one angle to create the total story, and that’s where we subjectively error, because we dangerously fill In the rest of the footage with what we believe occurred thereafter. Due to the amount of trust we put into limited information, we assume and perceive that that small scope of a story tells the whole story, and that mistake is what limits the usefulness of something we tend to rely on too much.
There is a slippery slope with camera footage which greatly compromises the personal accounts of what took place, as well as the due process (for both cop and criminal) that these cameras are meant to protect.
Cameras are nothing more than digital witness statements, with the same bias. A witness sees what they believe happened due to the limited information they process…this is why ten witnesses to the same event will always provide varying accounts; the only consistent facts of their accounts are their personal varying biases. A camera with a limited view has the same bias because of the minimal information it captures and provides the viewer, yet it is accepted as indisputable fact. Those facts are accurate, but extremely limited and unable to tell the whole story. Camera footage is as accurate as it is limited!
No cop or criminal should ever be vilified because of one camera angle that may or may not reasonably compare with the officer’s, or criminals, version of what took place as they experienced it. Decisions should be made based on the totality of events that coincide with the limited footage, as well as many other components that then create the most accurate account of what took place. Our due process system is all about providing as much evidence as possible, AND allowing as much scrutiny of the evidence to best prove the truth.
Camera footage or not, what you see is NOT always what you get!