The police department of Rialto, CA, is currently experimenting with requiring its officers to wear tiny lapel cameras to record audio and visual of all their interactions with citizens. So far, the results have been remarkable, to put it mildly:
Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24.
Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found.
SCOTUS Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” — and his words are certainly shown to be correct here.
Perhaps the most fascinating part, however, is the officers’ own reaction: Many objected to the idea of having their actions filmed, “[especially] some older officers who initially were ‘questioning why ‘big brother’ should see everything they do.’”
Huh? Do these police officers not realize that the more they resist this kind of accountability, the more they are Big Brother?
Undoubtedly there will be significant resistance to the idea, but this is a practice I’d love to see implemented at police departments nationwide. Let’s turn the surveillance on surveillants — and watch them clean up their acts.