ACLU will provide cameras to tape police


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Desertdog
January 2, 2006, 11:20 PM
ACLU will provide cameras to tape police
By Jeremy Kohler
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/emaf.nsf/Popup?ReadForm&db=stltoday%5Cnews%5Cstories.nsf&docid=9B76BA4A1A51D52A862570E80072B913

St. Louis police officers often say they feel as if people are looking over
their shoulders.

That feeling isn't likely to let up this year.

The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, a frequent critic of
the city police, says it plans to arm residents of the city's north side with
video cameras to record officers' dealings with the public.

The activist group says the department often mistreats and unfairly targets
blacks and said it hopes the presence of cameras will act as a deterrent to
police abuse and result in smoother dealings between residents and police.

The group said the cameras will start rolling in the summer, after a series of
workshops near Fairground Park where blacks can learn about how to protect
their rights during dealings with police. The program is called the Racial
Justice Initiative.

ACLU leaders notified Police Chief Joe Mokwa of its plans in meetings during
the fall. Neither the ACLU nor the police knew of any other previous effort
nationally to put officers under private surveillance.

The department has responded with a shrug. While some commanders are leery of having their officers taped, Mokwa said, "It's legal and there is nothing wrong with it."

Sgt. Kevin Ahlbrand, president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association,
said: "We don't expect any negative reports to come out of videotaping. Our
members are under the assumption that in today's society, they should assume that any time they're in public, they may be being videotaped."

Redditt Hudson, who heads the ACLU's racial justice program, said, "It's not
like we needed their clearance."

Mokwa said his officers are used to hearing criticism. On Dec. 22, the chief
said, he rushed to Barnes-Jewish Hospital to visit a rookie officer who had
been just been shot in the neck.

Mokwa said the first words of the officer, Matthew Greco, were, "I didn't do
anything wrong."

But Brenda Jones, the ACLU chapter's executive director, said some criticism of police is warranted.

"People are being stopped by the police for no particular reason," she said. "A
number who have run-ins have attempted to file complaints but haven't been able to get to internal affairs."

The group wants to lessen the "tension and potential for violence that has
occurred with police patrolling some of the poor neighborhoods in the city,"
she said.

Mokwa said he hopes the amateur cameramen don't interfere with officers or bait them with bogus calls. He said he disagrees with the premise of the action - he feels most people are happy with his officers' service.

The ACLU only hears from the small percentage of people who feel they have been wronged by police, he said.

He said he thinks most people want police officers to be aggressive in dealing
with troublemakers in their neighborhoods.

Mokwa said he hopes the tapes depict officers acting professionally. If the
videos expose problems, he said, "we'd want to know about those anyway."

jkohler@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8337

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Waitone
January 2, 2006, 11:47 PM
I'm told the ACLU's HQ in DC has plaques of amendments to the constitution. . . except for one. Care to guess which one? Just out of curiosity, when will we get to see video of their plaques?????

DevLcL
January 2, 2006, 11:48 PM
IMO race has little to do with police abuse. I believe police officers who would abuse their power would do so towards anybody they seem fit, including (sometimes especially) their own race. The workshop is a good idea but it should be directed towards anyone and everyone that wants the advice.

I'd be willing to bet that in lots of these "harrassment" cases the "victim" actually did do something to provoke it, in which case they wouldn't want to go to any "workshop" about the matter because they know best.

-Dev

TMAS
January 2, 2006, 11:51 PM
North City, St. Louis is probably the highest crime area in the city, and I would guess about 90%+ black. I lived there back in 1961 and moved to south county. That place is just terribly dangerous now.

Coronach
January 3, 2006, 12:05 AM
Yaaaaaaawn.

In this day of small video recorders and picture phones, I think any cop who is paying attention is pretty much aware that anything and everything he does might end up on tape.

Not a bad thing, really.

Mike

HighVelocity
January 3, 2006, 12:09 AM
The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, a frequent critic of
the city police, says it plans to arm residents of the city's north side with
video cameras to record officers' dealings with the public.

Want a new in box video camera? Check the local pawn shop in 90 days.

yonderway
January 3, 2006, 12:28 AM
Send some of those cameras to Philly! I don't know whether to be more scared of the cops or the gang members here.

ExtremeDooty
January 3, 2006, 01:07 AM
As a construction estimator, I've been doing my work for many years as if on a hidden camera. I've seen local and national "Gotcha stings" on construction workers on the TV many times. Being an honest guy trying to do a good job at fair price it was pretty easy for me. It should be the same for the St Louis police.

However, knowing that the ACLU is involved, I see nothing but trouble for the cops on the beat. The ACLU is one of the most un American groups in America.:fire:

Zundfolge
January 3, 2006, 01:34 AM
I've got mixed feelings on this one ... mostly because I don't trust cops or cop bashers.

On one hand I like that cops will have to look over their shoulders and think twice before violating people's civil rights, but on the other hand a bunch of anti police activists handing out camcorders sounds to me like an invitation for some "creative editing".


The camera lies.

Lupinus
January 3, 2006, 01:00 PM
I have mixed fealings.

On one hand it is good to keep an eye on the police, lots are great guys but lots are also mightier then thou I am the law weiners with ears. So keeping an eye on them is a good thing.

Then though I hop to the other side, while a lot of people in the inner cities Im sure are great you have a bunch of thugs and ingrates I wouldn't trust to accuratly depict police action if they were on a Steven Spielberg production. I can already imagin the amount of "police brutality" BS reports and tapes recorded out of context. Hell you get a black guy the size of both officers combined on tape attacking them and when they put him on the ground and he has a heart attack it is racisim and police brutality. Imagine that tape without the attack on the officers being shown? I can see a bunch of them if you hand out cameras for this purpose.

So I can see both sides of this and have mixed fealings, overall I think at best only an equal amount of good and bad can come fro mthis.

Camp David
January 3, 2006, 01:10 PM
Who supplies cameras to tape the ACLU?

I am far more worried about the ACLU, and their terrorism, than I am the police!

Identifying rogue ACLU members is a greater priority for this nation!

LawDog
January 3, 2006, 01:19 PM
Nice publicity stunt. These days of ever other cell phone on the market being capable of video capture, not to mention that most digital cameras out there are capable of video capture, most officers already figure that they're on tape.

But, sauce for the goose being sauce for the gander and all that, I've got to ask:

If the ACLU camera catches a non-LEO breaking the law is the ACLU going to turn that tape over to law enforcement?

If the tape clears officers in a IA investigation, is the ACLU going to turn over that tape to IA?

I'm pretty sure that I already know the answer.

LawDog

Optical Serenity
January 3, 2006, 02:04 PM
The ACLU is just plain silly. First off, most agencies already utilize cameras...and plain and simple, in the several years I've been a police officer, I've seen lots of crime, lots of people doing crazy things, and I have yet to see anyone on the law enforcement side go out and violate someone's rights...

Maybe its just where I work, but I have a feeling that just like anti-gunners say all people with CCW's are crazy, this is another example of the indigent, unfortunately higher crime crowd, crying wolf. One thing I have learned is that criminals will do absolutely whatever they can to get out of any form of criminal justice dealt to them. I use the word criminal broadly here, to include anyone who breaks any law.

For example, we constantly have folks come in and want to file a complaint....we say, ok, sit down and lets talk. "What happened?" them: "Well your officer treated me bad." us: "How is that?" them: "he cursed me, and gave me a ticket" or "he yelled at me...and gave me a verbal warning." But the funny thing is, we have them sign a sworn affidavit stating the same. Then we pull in their tape, and watch it with the officer present.

You know what the result is? You almost always see the officer doing just as he's been trained, and the person charged is screaming and yelling, and causing a right. The look on their face is priceless. Hence why we all love the use of video cameras.

I don't know any officers, including myself, who do not like that stuff. Our cars have GPS on them too, to further "watch" what we do, where, etc. I think its great personally.

As far as this fiasco, the ACLU is the biggest anti-gun group out there I know. They are out of control, and want to blame law enforcement for everything. Not to mention, they go to a prison, find it 80% black, and scream racism. Let me tell you, it sure is hard to see what color a person is at 3am when they drive by in a pitch black tinted car, at 90mph. I rarely if ever know if the person I'm stopping is a guy or a girl, so much as race...

agricola
January 3, 2006, 02:08 PM
Yaaaaaaawn.

In this day of small video recorders and picture phones, I think any cop who is paying attention is pretty much aware that anything and everything he does might end up on tape.

Not a bad thing, really.

Mike

Especially when it dispels urban myths and prevents officers being accused of malpractice, assaults or worse.

At my last station we had a phase on a particular estate of people videoing police action on their camera phones, albeit it died a sudden death when a search in which several rocks of crack and the subsequent assault on police was independently recorded in this way by someone who ended up being arrested as well. Strangely enough the defence solicitor convinced his client to plead given the strength of such evidence :D

TallPine
January 3, 2006, 02:16 PM
Our cars have GPS on them too, to further "watch" what we do, where, etc. I think its great personally.
Cool! Is that realtime? If so, it seems like a great safety measure for you.

Around here, deputies have to radio in with the mile marker when they make a traffic stop ... and their "backup" is probably at home in bed since only one deputy is usually on duty per shift.

Optical Serenity
January 3, 2006, 02:47 PM
It can be realtime...Without going into the technical details, when we activate blue lights or pull a shotgun, it updates faster. We still use the radio the same as before.

c_yeager
January 3, 2006, 03:11 PM
We could use some cameras out here. Our police administration has no desire to enforce discipline among it's officers and it leaves the good cops in a pretty nasty situation when the bad ones are allowed to continue their antics. Seattle used to have GPS monitoring, but it was dropped, supposedly because they didnt like what they saw.

NorthernExtreme
January 3, 2006, 03:17 PM
Great, now we have Big Brother and Little Brother to worry about. Both have the ability to do much good, or great harm.

How long till we see a fuzzy video that is reported to show Police abuse with the first few minutes of the video somehow missing. But if it does catch police violating civil rights, I have no problem with it.

What is good for the Goose...

Regards,

antarti
January 3, 2006, 04:05 PM
"People are being stopped by the police for no particular reason," she said. "A
number who have run-ins have attempted to file complaints but haven't been able to get to internal affairs."

I'm tempted to call B.S. on that.

I've had a couple of occasions to speak with IA folks, from a couple different departments. I never had the phone ring more than a couple times before it was picked up, and when I walked in there were no issues finding someone to speak to about my concerns. Of course, nothing was ever done (that I know of), but whether filing a complaint (or just sharing concerns about something that didn't look right and could have put an officer in danger) it's as easy as a phone call or visit.

Do IA departments typically give people the run-around to that degree, where they can't even voice their opinion/displeasure? That certainly isn't my experience.

longeyes
January 3, 2006, 04:47 PM
I'd like to have video cameras in ACLU's strategy meetings.

Optical Serenity
January 3, 2006, 05:27 PM
I have never seen an I.A. department that does nothing. You may feel that they didn't take proper action, but honestly the general public's perception on what is proper action is not always the reality of things.

Most I.A. departments are very efficient and effective.

zastros
January 3, 2006, 06:19 PM
There have been a lot of stories in the RFT (RiverFront Times, a local free paper better known for its 'personal' ads) about the trouble people have navigating through to IA, etc.

OTOH, for those who say, "Sauce for the Goose" is it hypocritical to be up in arms about cameras at stoplights and not about these?

zastros

Mongo the Mutterer
January 3, 2006, 06:31 PM
There have been a lot of stories in the RFT (RiverFront Times, a local free paper better known for its 'personal' ads) Yeah for you non-STLrs, the RFT is a free (cause no one would buy it) newspaper, who's publisher, a local leftist named Ray Hartmann, just went to the ACLU. Hmmm peculiar isn't it..

SomeKid
January 3, 2006, 08:38 PM
OTOH, for those who say, "Sauce for the Goose" is it hypocritical to be up in arms about cameras at stoplights and not about these?


World of difference between free people monitering the government (and its agents), and the government monitering its people.

One is a free people standing vigilante, the other is a government watching it's subjects.

When free people forget how to be free, they just become people. Shortly thereafter, they aren't people, merely subjects.

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