houston-police-body-worn-cameras-copblock

Houston Police Donning Body Cams

Published On December 28, 2013 | By Pete Eyre | Uncategorized

Over the past few weeks 100 Houston police employees have been given wearable body cameras. The head of their outfit – Charles McClelland – said that, “in trying to be accountable to the public, and being open and transparent, we’re very excited about this” and listed as benefits a lessening of citizen complaints, more convictions in court, better attitudes adjusted on both sides of the camera, and an officer safety enhancement as the video can be used for training purposes. But are body cams a step in the right direction or just the latest attempt to try to maintain authority?

As 90% of police interactions happen away from the area captured by dash cams, McClelland noted that that these body cams will make moot that need. The cost cited for each unit is $2,500 per ($850-1000 for the camera and the rest for storage capacity). Each device can record video and audio for four hours  and the data is kept on police servers for 90 days unless needed for court.

But just how easy will it be to obtain that footage? For example, suppose someone claims their rights were violated – will the recording be made public immediately? Will it necessitate a FOIA request? Will it be guarded or go missing? If McClelland and his crew wanted to save taxpayer money and maximize transparency why not upload all raw footage to their existing YouTube channel? Or perhaps make new YouTube channels for each patrol division and have a standard naming convention (ie date-time-badgenumber-videoclip)?

The new deployment of body cams are discussed in the first 6:30 of video:

McClelland did add that he believes these body cams are “the trend in the industry … in just a number of years all police officers across this country will be wearing some form of audio, video recording devices.” Earlier this year a judge mandated that body cams be donned by New York police employees who work out of the precinct in each of the five boroughs that most often utilized ‘stop and frisk’ shakedowns. And three years back, the Oakland police outfit spent over half a million dollars on body cams and instructed its agents to record if directly engaged with a crowd. Though it’s not been uncommon for police employees to fail (forget? neglect?) to do so.

Are body cams the answer for a more accountable police force? Are they worth investing resources into pursuing or will it be business as usual?

[poll id=”21″]

Me personally, I don’t think it worthwhile to put efforts into encouraging the adoption of body-worn cameras by police employees as it means time isn’t then being used to advocate for the ideal – that the provision of protection be provided via consensual interactions. A parallel to this line of thinking is that instead of working to try to pass ‘better’ legislation, one can create a better reality by simply living free oneself (and/or creating civil society mechanisms for those in ones sphere/community).

Those body cams are paid for with money stolen from area residents by people who claim to ‘protect and serve’ – that alone speaks to the perverse incentives inherent in their coercive monopoly. Would you advocate that employees at your grocery store steal your money and your neighbors money to wear cameras to help make sure they brutalize you or violate your rights? Of course not – you know, were one of those grocery store employees to initiate force, they’d be held accountable and it’d have a significant, negative impact for that business.

The same accountability mechanisms are absent with today’s policing model. The cameras are at most, the latest band-aid to try to maintain legitimacy for what’s inherently a faulty institution. That’s not to diminish the impact had by filming the police, but assuredly there is a world of difference in who controls the content.

Houston police outfit

Houston-based Watchdogs

Related content

Like this Article? Share it!

About The Author

Pete Eyre is co-founder of CopBlock.org. As an advocate of peaceful, consensual interactions, Eyre seeks to inject a message of complete liberty and self-government into the conversation of police accountability.Eyre went to undergrad and grad school for law enforcement, then spent time in DC as an intern at the Cato Institute, a Koch Fellow at the Drug Policy Alliance, Directer of Campus Outreach at the Institute for Humane Studies, Crasher-in-Chief at Bureaucrash, and as a contractor for the Future of Freedom Foundation.He later hit the road as co-founder of the Motorhome Diaries and Liberty On Tour, and now resides in the 'shire.
  • EvilRadicalDude

    Are you afraid of them editing video? Are you afraid of the initial confrontation being recorded before your cameras come on?

    You are recording the police and now they are recording back. Wrap it up in semantics all you want. It boils down to you not liking the idea. Period.

    Talk about double standards.

  • Pingback: Houston Police Donning Body Cams | Omaha Free Press()

  • tz

    It misses the point to say it detracts from volunteerism. One picture is worth more than 1000 words. One video of an unhinged cop will convince more people than complex philosophical excursions. The pictures out of Vietnam ended that war. The film of the civil rights marchers ended jim crow. Conversely, the pictures of planes going into towers allowed the current police state.

    Or will a move to the society you desire be a terrible defeat if it was caused by strong and clear images instead of your arguments?

    The redcoats were not guilty of the Boston massacre, but that image lit the fire. If mother England wasn’t mommy dearest, Common Sense wouldn’t have made sense.

    Better yet, move to Detroit. The cops don’t come, there are effectively no cops. It should be the perfect paradise, and property is cheap. Put philosophy into practice. There are limousine liberals, there should be a parallel for libertarians. Strange in those areas without government, there is no mass exodus of libertarians to fill the vacuum.

  • EvilRadicalDude

    “Strange in those areas without government, there is no mass exodus of libertarians to fill the vacuum.”
    ^^^^^^^
    Bingo.

    Perhaps Peter would like to enlighten us with his infinite wisdom on the reason.

  • certain

    Exodus would be if they were leaving the area. The word you’re looking for is “influx”.

    Privatized police would end up worse that what we have now. Like civil war worse. All of these concepts of self-policing and self-governance break down when you factor in such things as meth-heads and outlaw biker gangs.

    As I’ve mentioned before, all we really need is proven lie-detector technology, and it’s coming. 10-15 years and it will be in use. It will change so many things. Once it gets shoved down the cops throats.

    These cameras might be good thing. But remember the cop in Fullerton, CA, who smashed his audio recorder into pieces rather than let the evidence technicians have it, after he was involved in the prisoner committing suicide. I wonder how long it will be before a cops video recorder is “accidently” destroyed or misplaced when some video harmful to the cops might be on it.

  • michaelb

    Someone is making a mint on a $2500 setup per officer. A cell phone that does far more is $500

  • John Q Public

    These cameras will help with accountability. Like ERD said, they will show the WHOLE story instead of the edited videos that “activists” produce. I’m sure that if there’s an investigation involving the video, it won’t be released until the investigation is complete.

    “One video of an unhinged cop will convince more people than complex philosophical excursions.”

    There’s a flip side to that. One video of a suspect who claims brutality that actually shows there was none will convince even more people. I’ve seen far more videos of unhinged people than unhinged cops.

  • John Q Public

    certain, if lie detector tech comes, it won’t only be used against cops. It will be used against everyone. If you think cops are the only ones that lie, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.

  • truthspew

    Part of me wants to think this will make cops think twice before doing something incredibly stupid. Then the other part of me says that cops have already done stupid things while on camera so in the short run the effect will be the latter.

    The cameras are great – but the legislators need to adopt laws that make them public record. Plus police command has to clearly spell out acceptable and unacceptable behavior and penalties for such. As an example, kicking an already restrained subject until several bones are broken and there’s internal hemorrhage – that falls into the unacceptable category.

  • ThirtyOneBravo

    This just proves that Eyre (and his ilk) is nothing but a hypocrite. The table is turning and he doesn’t like it one iota.

  • Alvin

    I’ll applaud the HPD the first time an officer is on the hook for their actions and the camera (miraculously) doesn’t “malfunction”. If you will honestly look at things, that is what seems to happen with the dash-cams that the badge-thugs so touted three decades ago.

  • steve

    Good idea for accountability.

  • EvilRadicalDude

    Yes Alvin and some of those 30 year old cameras are still in use. Most of them are VHS which is outdated, so it’s no surprise those 30 year old cameras malfunction. Some departments require their officers to use the dash cams. Others leave it up to the officers and many departments can’t afford the cameras.

    So instead of lumping em all under one blanket statement, perhaps you should look at the individual department, their technology and policies. “Thug”.

  • RadicalDude

    Some excellent points Pete. Having the cops wear cameras does little to address the fundamental issues that the authoritarians refuse to even look at or acknowledge. They are basically the modern day equivalent of the apologists for slavery, their egos are too invested for them to face up to the real issues.

  • Shawn

    @JQP

    “If you think cops are the only ones that lie, I have some swampland in Florida to sell you.”

    No, no, no. I have some prime real estate with nice green cypress trees to sell at a ‘fair’ price for the land. One of my favorites in my time as a contractor was people who bought land during drought periods. They don’t know what green cypress signifies. Here is a clue. Cypress needs a lot of water.

    “These cameras will help with accountability. Like ERD said, they will show the WHOLE story instead of the edited videos”

    The question is, how much control will the cop have? Any camera where he can turn it off or delete video will have a limited impact. There was a story a couple weeks back in which there was an ‘accident’ regarding video that was supposed to go against a cop. I think it was 31B who’d said it looked deliberate to him.

  • EvilRadicalDude

    Shawn,

    You do make a valid point.

  • Shawn

    “The cost cited for each unit is $2,500 per ($850-1000 for the camera and the rest for storage capacity). ”

    Does anyone ever bother to price this stuff? Four hours of video data storage should not cost anywhere near 1500. Even 850-1k for the camera is probably pretty high.
    No wonder the governments are always complaining about not having money.

    http://www.amazon.com/Veho-Muvi-Pro-Micro-Camcorder/dp/B0037P5CAI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388265073&sr=8-1&keywords=body+camera

    May not be up to quite the same quality, but still… DV technology is a lot more developed than a few years ago, and the prices match that truth.
    As for claims of some departments not being able to afford recording technology. They can afford all kind of toys. But they can’t afford something to help keep their officers honest? I got some try florida land to sell you. Pay no attention to the cypress trees.

  • certain

    Everybody lies, JQP, for some reason or another. But police lying puts good people in jail and keeps bad people out. I welcome the tech for everybody in all legal proceedings, criminal as well as civil.

  • certain

    And it’s definitely not if, but when. Look it up. They can already tell if somebody is recalling an actual memory versus making something up, based upon which part of the brain lights up. Not fool-proof yet, but it’s getting there rapidly. 10-15 years is a conservative guess. Might be sooner if some breakthrough or other is made.

  • t

    I so love the 2 faced nature of ot all. The constant cries of we want the police recorded at all times….well here it is and now that’s not good enough. Of course there is the good old the police won’t give it to us. Nice.

    Hope the tax payers like it. For 500 line officers…..2500 a pop ain’t cheap. And that’s not factoring in all the costs of filling the ridiculous FOIA claims about nothing.

    I think it’s a good idea overall. But nothing is perfect.

    But the Cop Blocker double speak is awesome !!!

  • Shawn

    There is t, attacking any effort to make cops truly accountable. As for the cost, read my last post. It doesn’t have to cost that much, but government is good at wasting money.
    And they find more than enough money for the toys you want to have. And you cry “what if” if anyone questions the expenditures. But all of a sudden money means something to you? Sounds more like you’re afraid of not being able to hide your actions.
    Life is easy for a cop, if he is in total control over the evidence. Anything he doesn’t like can disappear. You don’t want to see how hard it is to prove a cop did something, when he is in total control. We’re left with only what he allows us to see, and what fits his story.

    “well here it is and now that’s not good enough.”
    As I had said, and even ERD agreed, it is only good enough if the cop can’t make bad video ‘go way’.

  • John Q Public

    Shawn, copblockers make bad video go away too. We see it on this site all the time. It seems to go both ways. It’s wrong for the cops to do it, but it’s just as wrong when the copblockers do it too. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Shawn

    @JQP

    I think the issue is a little more significant with a cop. A cop has the power to beat the shit out of someone, or worse, and other crimes, and hide behind his badge. He has the power to cause a lot of damage to an innocent person’s life with false accusations that stick a lot easier since he is a cop. The system doesn’t want to question a cop’s story.
    I remember the guy who shot a kid, claiming the kid driving at him. T and others didn’t question his word one bit. Then they checked the car and it was in reverse. The cop lied, but cops wanted to just take his word like it was the Gospel of John.

    The power of a badge makes a cop a lot more dangerous than some here want to admit.

  • akkard

    “…why not upload all raw footage to their existing YouTube channel?”

    Because it would violate all the evidence rules if it was needed for court proceedings. There would have to be some waiting period before anything could be publicly released.

  • t

    Shawn: Mehta are you talking about at 655?

    And…how does my saying its a good idea mean I’m somehow against the idea?

  • Shawn

    @t

    “And…how does my saying its a good idea mean I’m somehow against the idea?”
    Because you say it at the last, and everything else was an attack. I don’t believe for one second you think it was a good idea. Most cops are clearly opposed to ANY camera. And we all know why.
    Hell, in Collier FL some years ago, they took the cameras out of the cars when it was used against them in court. Don’t fix the cops, fix the evidence against them.

  • t

    Shawn: Really dude? You don’t see the typical cop block double standard / 2 faced nature of this article? You claim you want exactly this…and get it…and still bitch. Get over yourself.

    As for the cost. That is what it is. Nothing any officer has…other than a car…costs anywhere near that much. It is a HUGE expense. And it will be on going. It’s not just a one time deal and it stops. Additions, repairs, replacements. Costs that continue. My department looked at similar cameras (not quite as expense) and the city balked at the idea as the cost was extreme.

    But the on top of that…there is still the limitations of cameras themselves. They are very valuable tools….but they still have limitations. But I’d rather have one than not. When in uniform….I’ve worn a belt mounted personal camera for years.

  • Shawn

    @t

    “You claim you want exactly this…and get it…and still bitch. Get over yourself.”

    Did I? Or does the cop have the ability to make bad video go away? You don’t get that that is the trick. What looks like an effort at accountability may or may not be so in truth. ERD agreed with me on that.

    As for the costs
    “Nothing any officer has…other than a car…costs anywhere near that much”
    Those guns usually aren’t very cheep, and the officer himself cost massive amounts of money every year.

    As for 2500, no. That is someone who either doesn’t care or is too stupid to know he is being taken. Maybe ten years ago it was that much, but a simple internet search has shown cameras for far less. And memory storage is cheep these days.
    Either way, I think it is money well spent, as long as the cop can’t control the video. Not only does it catch cops acting out, but it changes their attitudes. More than once, and not just here, I’ve seen video of cops cool their jets when they realize it is being filmed.

    “They are very valuable tools….but they still have limitations.”
    Every tool has limitations, including your weapons, armor, and car. That doesn’t prevent their use. Cops have limitations too. If they screw up, they will lie and their buddies cover up for it.

    “Costs that continue. My department looked at similar cameras (not quite as expense) and the city balked at the idea as the cost was extreme.”
    More likely, they knew better than to record their own officers’ crimes.

  • EvilRadicalDude

    Yes I agreed with you Shawn. I’ve seen the cop blockers debunked several times when unedited video serviced. Video is video and can be edited.

  • John Q Public

    Look at Amanda Billyrock. Her video pretty much debunked her claims, even though she’s keeping up her “victim” bit.

  • THE AUTHORITY

    THE POLICE HAVE NO RIGHT AND NO EXCUSE TO EVER FILM ACTIVISTS EVER

  • Alvin

    Give it a rest Authority. The police have every “right” to film anyone else in public as much as you “protestors” have. The same expectation of privacy extends to you as it does to them. You are sounding a stupid as JQP right about now.

  • t

    Shawn: We were looking at an extra million in the budget. And that much memory ain’t cheap.

    Not aware of many…or any right of the top…of edited police video that was edited and released by the police. Seen lots of edited video….edited by someone other than the police. But if it makes you feel,better to think its something common, go ahead.

  • Common Sense

    I can predict that the overwhelming footage will exonerate the police more often than not.

  • Shawn

    @T

    ” Not aware of many…or any right of the top…of edited
    police video that was edited and released by the police.”

    Cops just delete incriminating video. “Opps!”

  • Shawn

    @ERD

    ” I’ve seen the cop blockers
    debunked several times when unedited video serviced.”

    And the claims of cops debunked. Like the cop who shot a guy “who lunged at them with a knife.” It was total bullshit, and video proved it.

  • Alvin

    I can predict that the overwhelming footage will exonerate the police more often than not.

    LOL, now that is true, as long as the footage doesn’t just “malfunction” during the part that would not exonerate said police. We’ve seen far too many examples of that happening with some of the police depts’. dashcams.

  • t

    Shawn: No edited police videos. Check.

    Oh, BTW, tasers are way more expense than pistols. Most departments guns don’t cost much. Usually in the 300-400 dollar range. And they last 9-10 years. Radios are way, way more than that.

  • Alvin

    And the police misuse those tools as well. Cheap, expensive, or fairly valued, there isn’t a tool in the police department’s arsenal that hasn’t been misused or abused by someone on the force. Hell, even the nonlethal act of accounting has been abused by some in “the best and brightest” of us.

  • Shawn

    @T

    ” Shawn: No edited police videos. Check.”

    Deletions are editing. Check

  • t

    K. Then make sure you protest when a department near you wants to spend money on them. Why bother to waste the money right?

  • THE AUTHORITY

    t quit pretending to be a cop we all know you got kicked out of the academy for sniffing jock straps when no one was around until that time you got caught. Hey does your parole officer know you’re on the internet pretending to be a cop again?

  • THE AUTHORITY

    SHOW ME THE FUCKING LAW THAT SAYS COPS HAVE THE RIGHT TO FUCKING FILM!!!

  • Alvin

    Authority, we covered this yesterday. In a public place, no one, not the police, not you, not the judges, not the politicians, even the child molesters, no one has the expectation of privacy. The operative words are PUBLIC PLACE. Now, let’s say a cop shows up at your door step. There is a big question mark as to whether they are able to say, direct their camera to film inside your home as you are talking with them at the front door. There will be a lot of legal questions arise when the police adopt this new policy.

  • THE AUTHORITY

    SHOW ME WHAT FUCKING LAW SAYS THE POLICE HAVE THE FUCKING RIGHT TO FUCKING FILM!!!! WHERE DOES IT FUCKING SAY THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • John Q Public

    Look up your ass authority. You’ll find it there.

  • THE AUTHORITY

    More fucking bullshit lies and fraud from that fucking badgelicker Jon Q Pubic

    FUCKING COPS HAVE NO FUCKING RIGHT AND NO FUCKING EXCUSE TO FILM ACTIVISTS EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THERE IS NO FUCKING LAW THAT FUCKING SAYS FUCKING COPS HAVE A FUCKING RIGHT TO FUCKING FILM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Don Francisco

    They can film all they want. No privacy in public.

  • Ariel

    Shawn,
    There have been a number. Off hand I can think of the one in the South where an idjit ran, crashed, and woke up in the hospital. Turns out his injuries were mostly from 4 or more cops beating while he was unconscious. That video was concealed for about a year, released edited, but eventually the full one came out.
    This is about some cops and some PDs, not all cops and all PDs.
    However, all the rank-and-file embrace a cop who exposes the crimes of another cop. They all realize this makes their profession better.

  • Ariel

    JQP,
    “Shawn, copblockers make bad video go away too. We see it on this site all the time. It seems to go both ways. It’s wrong for the cops to do it, but it’s just as wrong when the copblockers do it too. You can’t have it both ways.” Hear, hear. Partly because you acknowleged cops do it to, but totally because it’s wrong whenever it’s done.
    Belatedly, yeah this new format sucks. The old one was easier to read and made more sense.