“My eldest son, Erik Scott, might be alive today if Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officers had been required to wear body cameras in the summer of 2010, when Erik was shot to death.”
– William B. Scott
On March 31, 2015, the Nevada State Assembly’s Government Affairs Committee held a hearing on Nevada State Assembly Bill AB403, which would require all Nevada police to wear body cameras. Testimony was given by various witnesses, both for and against, the proposed bill. Among those speaking in support of mandating bodycams was Bill Scott, whose son Erik Scott was gunned down by three members of the LVMPD outside a Summerlin, NV Costco, back in 2010.
One of the most contentious issues relating to that day has always been the lack of a video showing what exactly happened. Further, the incredibly dubious claim that the one camera which would have provided that video was malfunctioning at the time, has done nothing but create questions and inspire doubt. Although that controversy itself, along with the already mounting examples of body worn or dash mounted cameras similarly “malfunctioning” or simply being shut off by cops, shows why bodycams and dashcams aren’t the end all-solution to police abuses, they certainly could go a long way toward curtailing them, as Bill rightly states in his testimony. This would be especially true, if they were accompanied with real consequences for police officers that tamper with or turn off those cameras.
As has been demonstrated many times, knowing they are on camera and that there will be evidence of their crimes has often worked very effectively as a deterrent to police abuses. Even when cops aren’t wise enough to stay on good behavior because they know they are being filmed, cameras have often yielded the proof necessary to hold them accountable for their actions. Access and control of that evidence is still a huge issue that necessitates that we should still carry our own cameras and film the police every time we or someone else is stopped by the police, however having another camera recording all the time is obviously a step in the right direction.
Interestingly, the almost singular excuse used to oppose bodycams by those speaking against them (which consisted almost exclusively of police employees) was the expense involved in buying them and storing the footage. That’s actually kind of understandable, since the cops obviously don’t want to just come right out and say they don’t want anybody to see all the bad shit they do all day or especially not to have irrefutable evidence, when those things cross the line into prosecutable acts. The problem with that line of reasoning is that all of the many lawsuits being paid out for the bad conduct of police would more than easily pay for the added expense associated with requiring body cameras.
In Las Vegas, the citizens eventually paid about $2,000,000 total for the settlements to the family of Stanley Gibson, after he was murdered by Jesus Arevalo (who is also receiving between $23,000 and $28,000 every year from those taxpayers, as a de facto reward for that murder). That alone would put a huge dent in the cost required to outfit cops within the LVMPD with bodycams. So, the deterrence for murders by Nevada police that wearing bodycams would represent, would more than likely actually save money by eliminating the need to constantly pay those settlements to the families of their victims, as well as the associated increases in the premiums (from $1.3 million in 2012 to $6.9 in 2013 at the LVMPD) for the liability insurance that Nevada police departments have against such settlements.
Bill opens his half-hour long testimony (video embedded below) with these statements:
My eldest son, Erik Scott, might be alive today, if Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Dept. officers had been required to wear body cameras in the summer of 2010, when Erik was shot to death. Why? Because body-worn cameras are a powerful deterrent to the use of deadly force. They literally are “unimpeachable witnesses.”
Officer William Mosher—who panicked and shot my son as Erik and his girlfriend calmly walked out of Costco-Summerlin—had already killed one man, in his first five years on the Las Vegas Metro force. That shooting was ruled “justified.” With no video evidence or civilian witnesses, inquest jurors had no alternative but to accept the accounts of on-scene police officers, even though they were highly suspect.
If he’d been wearing a bodycam on July 10, 2010, Mosher might not have fired at Erik. Having narrowly escaped criminal charges before, Mosher might have asked himself—as he hovered near the door of Costco, shaking like the proverbial leaf, according to witnesses: “If I shoot and kill again, will I be fired? Will criminal charges be filed against me?” With his and dozens of other cops’ body cameras documenting every move, there would be no escaping the truth this time.
Body cameras on Mosher, Thomas Mendiola and Joshua Stark (the three shooters, who fired seven rounds into Erik, including five in his back) might have motivated the officers to opt for a much different, life-saving tactic: Follow Erik into the parking lot, de-escalate the situation by calmly talking to him, and check his legal concealed-carry permit. Everybody would have gone home safely…and Erik Scott would be alive and well today.
A full transcript of his entire testimony can be found at his website: williambscott.com
Bill’s book “the Permit,” a fictionalized account of Erik Scott’s murder, can be purchased via his personal website.
A related article Bill recently wrote for Politico.com about bodycams and how they may have affected not just Erik’s encounter with the LVMPD, but also how they potentially would have kept Michael Slager from murdering Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina can be read here.