Ferguson Shooting Sparks Debate about Police Body Cams
WASHINGTON, D.C. — At the heart of the violence and chaos in Ferguson Missouri is one question: what actually happened in the moments leading up to the death of Michael Brown. The public has heard from people who say they saw the incident. Authorities have spoken to the officer accused, but there's still something missing. Chris Rickerd is with the ACLU, an organization that often advocates against surveillance. "If body worn cameras had been in place there would be an objective account of the events that could at least be assessed for if the use of force policy was followed or not," said Rickerd. But when it comes to the authorities being watched, he says it's a win-win situation. Rickerd went on to say, "It would exonerate the police officer if the allegation of abuse were false but also as you said provide an objective account of what happened." We are not talking about giving police more heavy machinery. The so called 'cop cams' already in use are made to clip onto an officers lapel or even onto their sunglasses. In a one year study in Rialto California the numbers speak for themselves: use of force by officers wearing the cameras dropped 60 percent and complaints went down 88 percent. Walter Olson is a Senior fellow, the Cato institute. He believes that this could also help police by sorting out untrue claims. But says if widely adopted would need to come with some restrictions. "As they record what the police is doing they are also recording often what citizens are doing perhaps storing that, perhaps making it searchable. If the film is there and is being stored for some period of time someone else will want to use it," said Olson. The danger, he says, is another trove of video with the ability to apply facial recognition software in cases totally unrelated. Once the chaos in Ferguson quiets, the quest for the truth will likely remain.