Denying cops the ability to review body camera recordings prior to writing reports isn’t reform—it’s a set up for lawsuits and settlements. And it shows how the so called police “reform” of demanding body cameras has nothing to do with improving police, but preventing law enforcement officers from using a valuable tool to do their jobs.
Indeed, the “outrage” about actually letting police officers review body camera recordings says a lot about how attorneys and activists want to manipulate the basics of policing to their own advantage.
For example, trial attorney Derick Dailey, who is also a senior legal fellow at Salvation and Social Justice, wrote an editorial railing against New Jersey Assembly Bill 5864 that permits police officers to review camera footage prior to writing reports. The bill reverses the typical practice of the last few years which prohibited New Jersey cops from reviewing video recordings. And with the recent mandate for body-worn cameras, the bill would override a policy from the Attorney General that prohibits cops from reviewing video before writing their reports.
It seems Dailey wants this common-sense legislation rejected because the “bill undermines the efforts that many police officers, prosecutors, defenders, judges, advocates and others have made to strengthen trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”
Saying that the bill would make trust between the police and the public impossible, Dailey said that letting cops review footage would let them “tailor their reports to fit the footage, potentially leaving out important details relating to their intentions, motivations and behaviors in their encounters with the public. Critically, as we’ve seen in recent years, those details can prove legally dispositive in court and can result in death for people of color.”
While it’s hard to know how letting law enforcement review important footage of encounters would result in the death of “people of color,” it seems that Dailey probably does not want every detail needed for the prosecution of criminals to be included in official police reports.
Besides, if police officers were involved in wrong doing—and it was recorded—being able to review it is not going to make it disappear. And letting officers review their misdeeds on video is not going to help them explain any of it away either.
However, many other activists and attorneys like Dailey are probably worried more about body camera recordings showing the wrong-doing of criminals—aka “clients”—than the wrong doing of cops.
For one thing, body cameras have not proven to be the “gotcha” reform many thought it would be. Indeed, body camera recordings have failed to evidence the rampant ‘systematic racism” that activists and attorneys have decried.
And since actual video recordings have failed to catch police officers everywhere up to no good, activists and attorneys are trying to use them to catch cops in other ways—like absurdly challenging their recollection of practically every detail involved in an incident.
It’s an age-old scheme that defense attorneys, ambulance chasers, and now woke-minded activists are exploiting to get cops caught up in apparent “lies” and inaccuracies.
Of course trial attorneys like Dailey would love to put cops on the stand—and test how much they can remember and accurately recall. It’s a great way to spread doubt with even the slightest discrepancy between what an officer perceived and wrote down—and what was recorded.
So of course Dailey and other activists and attorneys want to prevent officers from reviewing body camera recordings.
But this has nothing to do with building trust. It’s about trying to fabricate discrepancies to score points in the courtroom and manufacture doubt—to make law enforcement officers seem wrong no matter what they do right.