Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Law enforcement officials equipped with cameras

The video is grainy and dimly-lit, focusing on several police officers that are gathered around a squad car.

Out of frame, the viewer watches as an arm extends and guides a male in handcuffs into the backseat of the car. The camera wearer, at this point presumed to be another police officer, begins talking to the others about the arrest.

This footage is all thanks to a small camera, resting comfortably on the officer’s ear.

Such cameras have become a requirement for several law enforcement agencies throughout the country in response to growing concerns over police brutality and unprofessionalism in cases such as the recent death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, according to The New York Times.

These new policies, the article said, could potentially help in lawsuits and bolster police accountability by adding another layer of public documentation.

“The Justice Department, surveying 63 police departments that were using body cameras and many others that were not, concluded in a report this month that the technology had the potential to ‘promote the perceived legitimacy and sense of procedural justice’ in interactions between the public and law enforcement,” the article said.

At Plattsburgh State, however, University Police Assistant Chief Jerry Lottie said he didn’t believe the force would be adopting the policy anytime soon, as he felt the relations between the officers and campus community are good at the present time.

Though other SUNY schools have adopted the policy or have expressed interest in doing so, Lottie said he felt requiring PSUC University Police officers to wear surveillance equipment might strain relations with the students.

“There is definitely some merit to this,” Lottie said. “It could cause officers to be more cautious and can be helpful to address citizens’ complaints. So often, people see things a certain way, and maybe seeing things on tape will help them see things that happened in a different perspective, from black and white to color.”

Lottie said the use of surveillance equipment could raise questions about the proper use of the gear.

“When do you turn it off and on? And then, is it an invasion of people’s privacy?” Lottie said. “These are some of the questions that are going to have to be answered at some point.”

Email Maggie McVey at news@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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