Freddie Gray. Tamir Rice. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. And a few very close to home: Kelly Thomas and Manuel Diaz. In fact, between the years of 1999 and 2014, there have been at least 76 men and women who were killed in police custody. What would have police cameras proved in these cases? Or, if the police were wearing body cameras at the time, would these deaths have happened?
With the six Baltimore police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray arrested at the end if April, it’s an important topic for discussion. It’s also becoming an issue closer to home, with the Santa Ana community’s anger over the police beating of undocumented immigrant Edgar Vargas and the recent shooting death of Ernesto Javier Canepa Diaz.
Which is interesting when you note that only a handful of residents showed up at a public forum held last month by the Santa Ana Police Department heads, looking to hear the community’s thoughts on their officers wearing body cameras.
Do they work? The city of Rialto, California is a great example of a positive case study for the police cameras. After the city’s police department adopted the cameras in 2012, the incidents of use-of-force dropped by 60 percent from 2011, and the number of complaints about officers by citizens dropped by a whopping 88 percent. This data came from the Police Foundation, a non-profit organization.
Fullerton adopted the use of Taser International cameras in February of this year, and Anaheim late last year. Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes wanted the cameras to show an "unbiased visual record", he told the Orange County Register. Hughes grew up in Fullerton and became the police chief the year after Kelly Thomas’ death made big headlines.
From Hughes’ point of view, the cameras provide a win-win situation. "It protects our officers from false allegations, and I think it also provides a mechanism to conduct audits of the performance of the officer."
Do you think police officers should be wearing the cameras? Do you feel that it’s a violation of their civil rights, or an affirmation of the civil rights of the people the police are sworn to protect and serve? Do you think Santa Ana police officers should be wearing cameras? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
If you or someone you know has been injured in custody or mistreated while in custody, please call us immediately: 866-416-2161.