In recent years, technical tools that can record a cop’s every act have shined a bright light on police abuses. This is especially true now with the ubiquitous dashcams attached to almost every police cruiser in the nation. Apparently some cops don’t like this. As the police have become increasingly scrutinized by the public eye, their dash cams have become increasingly “broken.”
In Chicago, over 80% of the dash cams are not working properly and this isn’t a case of a lot of faulty equipment. Chicago police officials acknowledge that Chicago police are sabotaging the equipment! Reports include batteries being pulled out of the units, antennas broken or removed, and dashcam microphones missing. But, after all, it’s Chicago.
Well, it’s not just Chicago. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, an investigative reporter was pulled over by seven police cars as she was following a county official in pursuit of news regarding the misuse of public funds. The reporter alleged that she was roughed up by the officers and sued for injuries she claimed the officers caused. Lo and behold, all of seven the dashboard cameras in the seven police cars “malfunctioned” and the video the reporter subpoenaed for her lawsuit was “unavailable.” That’s right: the police claimed that all seven dashcams malfunctioned at the same time!
In the recent Sandra Bland incident in Texas, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced that they were looking into possible edits of the dashcam footage taken of Ms. Bland’s arrest. Also in Texas, a Court of Appeals judge wrote in her dissent on a case that dashcam video of arrests is often missing or damaged. This judge admonished the courts that they must address the repeated failure of officers to use the recording equipment that the taxpayers are paying for.
And right here in our own backyard, police were found to have sabotaged their recording equipment. In 2014, an investigation by the Police Commission in Los Angeles found that police officers had tampered with their recording equipment. The investigation found that over half the squad cars in the Southeast L.A. patrol division were missing antennas. The antennas function to transmit audio recorders the police wear to transmit back to the squad car.
Whether you think police abuse needs to be reined in or that the police are just doing their job, audio and video recording devices serve not only to keep the cops honest but also to protect them from unfounded allegations of abuse. One must wonder why all of these cops are tampering with, or even destroying, their recording equipment. The implication is that there is something these cops do not want the public, or the courts, to know. The police may be able to remove batteries or break antennas now but the near future promises technological advances that will soon make it impossible for the police to hide from their watchers.