BLOG: Don't rush to judgment based on snippets of video

BLOG: Don't rush to judgment based on snippets of video

Folks, this is not how criminal justice was intended to be!  As I remember, it's supposed to go down like this:

  • Police respond to a call for service
  • Police react to their environment based upon public safety and their safety.
  • If lethal force was employed, a perimeter is immediately established around the scene.
  • Investigators, crime scene analysts, police supervisors, government officials, etc. enter that perimeter and investigate the incident.
  • A Public Information Officer or ranking member of the law enforcement/judicial community then present the facts, known at that moment, to the public.
  • A lengthy investigation, by all agencies required, would then ensue.

Today, the police respond to a scene and are immediately being broadcast on social media. The viewing public then adjudicates the incident based upon what they see.

This is not fair to any of the parties involved... not to the suspect, not to the witnesses and not to the police.

I was one of the first people to endorse the use of police body cameras, but I remember being quite vocal as to the fact that it is only a camera, and will only show that toward which the lens in pointed. Nothing else.

Ask anyone who uses a camera professionally and they will tell you that the eye of a camera presents a single angle, micro view of an event.  Imagine if a police officer went into a situation looking only through the eye of a camera.  Would you want the next police officer responding to help you doing that? Of course not!

As trained observers, officers responding to a scene are processing information from the large field of human sight.  And they are not only processing the scene visually, they are utilizing every sense they have to process the environment around them.  Remember, police officers are not creating the environment, they are merely responding into an existing environment in an attempt to mitigate the scenario on behalf of public safety and their safety.

Some would say that a camera lens never blinks. That it reveals an absolute truth.  Well, OK.  But I suggest that it only reveals a portion of the truth.

My point here is this: instant adjudication and opinion-setting of an incident based on a few seconds or minutes of viewing an event through one camera lens is not a sufficient or a fair way to influence our criminal justice system moving forward.  It is called a "system" because best practices have been put in place to investigate crimes and duly report them to the public.

I have no issue with police being recorded for public accountability.  With all the public safety cameras in cities, security cameras on business and dash cams in vehicles, an officer should know that they are being recorded anyway.  But when someone comes into possession of critical evidence that they have recorded, they should follow the best practices of our criminal justice system and let that evidence be presented in a responsible way.  That is the only way to be fair to all parties involved.

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