We asked the following question to readers on social media and the Public Insight Network recently: Should police use body cameras — even if they were used on you? Thanks for all of your responses. Below is a sampling of your comments, some of which were edited for length and clarity. Learn more about the Public Insight Network and comment on previous discussions at MiamiHerald.com/community and select Community Conversations.
I would be uncomfortable during my arrest if the police officer was not wearing a body camera or in some other way recording the event. The body camera is my assurance that the police are following the rules and respecting my rights as an accused person.
Tom Nagle, Miami
I would be more comfortable if the cameras were used during my arrest. A very large percentage of the National Guard outfit, in which I served, consisted of active duty police. They were among the finest people I ever met but some of them were hotheaded and likely to overreact. In that case the camera would be for my protection. Today, where the media is painting the police as the bad guys, the cameras would otherwise be for the protection of the officer. The use of the cameras seems to me to be a win-win situation. One caveat that I think should be established before the cameras are put into use is that once a camera is issued to an officer it should be on continuously and, if it is not functioning, the officer should notify his precinct before an arrest or confrontation is commenced. That would create a record that would protect the officer whose camera failure would otherwise look suspicious in these days of painting law enforcement personnel as a bunch of bullies.
Arnold Slotkin, Hollywood
I’m overall in favor of the doctrine because it eliminates the “he said, she said” uncertainty of police and citizen interactions. But one thing that will be negatively impacted is that the friendly “police warning” is gone and it’s something the public better be aware of. No more getting stopped for a ticket-able infraction and them saying: “I’ll let you off with a warning this time.” That’s gone. It will also eliminate the overly friendly officer Friendly who flirts with the opposite sex (or same sex as the case may be) and that too, is a good thing.
Jim Kononoff, Miami
Body cams are an excellent way to protect both the public and the police officer. Assuming that the film will not be doctored or the camera turned off at a “convenient” moment, a complete record will be made of the interaction between the officer and the individual and prevent false claims being made by either. If there is a valid complaint to be made against the officer, the film will serve as proof while fully supporting the officer in the performance of his duties. If I am dealing with an officer — for whatever reason — let the record be complete for both our sakes. A recent film clip seen on email of an officer shooting an individual who drew a weapon on the officer gives a very clear picture of the incident and the correctness of the officer’s response.
Joel Beyer, Miami
Yes. My concern is that recordings will be edited or lost, rather than used properly.
Charles Gottlieb, Miami
As a law enforcement officer myself of over 20 years seeing things change, it is important. Cameras will either clear up doubt or incriminate the wrong. The rule of thumb is film doesn’t lie. But the problem will be that film without sound leaves room for interpretation or perception of an incident. Though film is rolling an officer’s perceived threat may not be shown unless audio is on.
Roy Griffin, Miami
I don’t agree neither with the cameras nor the barricades and [DUI] checkpoints.
Armando Santiago, Miami
Oversight of law enforcement officers is completely nonexistent. This situation has led to outrageous abuses of power which are only finally becoming public knowledge thanks to civilian use of recording equipment — and the adoption of police body cams. How else can we hold public servants accountable for their actions in a “my word vs. his word” situation?
George Tucker, Fort Lauderdale
I would welcome the opportunity. I hope it would keep the police more honest and polite, stop everyone from playing the race cards, and more importantly, give everyone a better idea of police work and how it can be improved moving forward.
Elizabeth Gonzalez, Miami
Police have a stressful and dangerous job. But that truth does not give them license for abuse. Before body cameras, questions about excessive policing came down to two different versions. Having a video record of a civilian police interaction now gives reviewers a third version that can help clarify what may or may not have occurred during a particular incident. And body cam use has proven to mitigate extreme behaviors on both sides.
Sid Kaskey, South Miami
The camera can help to prove or disprove all sorts of accusations — for example, whether an arrested person (or ticketed driver) did or didn’t resist arrest. Resisting is a fairly common false accusation to explain cuts and bruises on victims of bad policing. The camera can support an arrested person’s version of events as well as an officer’s, and it can protect each of them against false accusations by the other. Finally, the pictures should help prosecutors decide whether to file or drop charges, and save court time by encouraging guilty pleas when evidence is strong.
Arnold Markowitz, Miami Shores
I have nothing to hide. Turn the cameras on!
Greg Bito, South Miami