Monday, March 16, 2009

Into the Lens

Earlier this month I blogged about a pending Supreme Court case where the key piece of evidence - video from a cop's dashboard camera - was put on YouTube for all to see. Along those same lines, Steve Chapman over at Reason calls for those cameras to be installed in every cop car in the country:

Nine years into the 21st century, why isn't every squad car in America equipped with a dashboard video camera? Why do we persist in relying on the slippery, self-interested, incomplete, and unverified accounts of opposing participants when we have the means to see the truth with our own eyes?
Chapman reports that Chicago, where the incident he relates took place, has cameras in only 11 percent of their cars and that to install more is just too expensive.

There are other, lesser reasons, for not recording every traffic stop. Similar arguments are made to videotape statements made by suspects during criminal investigations. Having the "confession" on tape would be better for all involved, right?

Years ago, one of the newsmagazine shows (20/20, I think, but don't hold me to it) had a story about a teenager who was charged with murder. This was in rural Minnesota, IIRC. He had confessed, according to cops, so it was an open and shut case. Except that the entire statement was on video and jurors were able to see how the interrogators had beaten down the poor kid until he would admit to anything. He was acquitted.

The lesson learned from that case? Don't videotape anything. Hopefully, that attitude won't keep such a useful tool from being more widely deployed.

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