Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Somebody calls the police to report a potential crime and the police arrive and shoot the person who called them while their body cameras were mysteriously turned off:
Minneapolis police responded to a call of a possible assault. At some point, a weapon was fired and a woman fatally shot. The BCA is now in charge of the investigation. They say the officers involved had body cameras, but they were not turned on.
Last year the City of Minneapolis spent $4 million to equip the officers in its department with body cameras. This was done in an attempt to restore some of the public’s trust in the department after its officers were involved in a serious of very questionable shootings. Here we are over a year later and that $4 million investment has been entirely wasted since when incidents like this happen body cameras are turned off for some inexplicable reason.
Unfortunately, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), as far as I know, has no policy in place for punishing officers who don’t turn on their body cameras (and if the department does it obviously doesn’t enforce it), which means these officers probably won’t receive any discipline. Moreover, the officers involved will probably say the magical words, “We feared for our lives,” which will ensure that the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) absolves them of any wrongdoing.
The only way body cameras can be useful is if departments implement policies that severely discipline officers for using nonfunctional (which would have to cover everything from the body cameras not being turned on to the batteries dying partway through a shift) body camera while on duty. So long as an officer can turn their camera off at will without repercussions they will only serve the purpose of collecting evidence against those who the police interact with. But I’ve said all of this before and I’m sure I’ll have to continue saying it until the day I die.