Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Opacity policies a big reason why bodycams haven't lived up to the hype

Grits appreciated Eva Ruth Moravec's post on police bodycams and Texas' low ranking vis a vis accountability compared to other jurisdictions. I've been harping about Texas' bad statute since it first passed, but this new research places its badness in a national context, which is to say, "among the worst in the country."

Am I surprised? Not in the least. But before now no one had done the legwork to prove it, so bully for Upturn and the Leadership Conference, the groups that performed the analysis. Our old pal Vanita Gupta - who was one of the lead attorneys on behalf of those convicted-and-later-pardoned in the Tulia drug stings back in the day - is now running the Leadership Conference after a stint in the Obama Administration running the DOJ Civil Rights Division, so it's nice to see her still producing good work.

In light of this news, it seemed like an opportune moment to pull out a brief excerpt from the November Reasonably Suspicious podcast, in which Grits offered my own view on why bodycams haven't improved accountability as much as predicted, colored significantly by Texas' situation:

Since it's short, here's the full transcript:
Mandy Marzullo: A new study found police body cams were doing little to change police behavior. What's the problem? 
Scott Henson: Mainly it’s that the laws implementing them aren't designed to use body cams for accountability. They're designed to use them to gather evidence against defendants. In most states including Texas, it's very hard to get access to the body cam footage, and so advocates aren't able to use it for holding police accountable and the only way they're getting used is as evidence in criminal trials. So for everyone who thought, "Hey, this will be a great police accountability tool," it's all in the implementation.
In addition, Michael Barajas at the Texas Observer had a story in September on the shortcomings of Texas' bodycam statute as viewed through the lens of police accountability debates in Dallas.

See related Grits coverage of Texas' bodycam statute:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They should put the body cams on the APD forensic lab analysts. Let find out their "mindset" when they decide to deviate from protocols, calculate DNA statistics incorrectly, or use expired reagents for analyzing evidence. This could get around the "Crawford" or "Bullcoming" requirements.

Hell, the errors could be resolved even before trial. What a concept!