A video record
Last summer, when officers stopped and questioned a 17-year-old man carrying a Tipman 98 paintball gun one night shortly before midnight, the teen refused to give his name and began taping the encounter on his cell phone. It was later posted on YouTube. He may not have realized that police also had a tape, a least of the audio, from the patrol car.
The video by the teen can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uE-K_4tzj7s&feature=youtu.be
Lt. William Browne at the Great Bend Police Department said the video by “LeRoy” was typical of several videos being uploaded at the time to emphasize the “open carry” rights of gun owners. Police do stop and question people on the streets at night, Browne said. In this case, the paintball gun was unloaded, which gives it the appearance of an AR-15 rifle, he added. The officer can be heard explaining that the city had been experiencing broken vehicle windows and paintball damage.
Although “LeRoy” sticks to his constitutional right and refuses to identify himself, the officers eventually get the information, off camera, from a 16-year-old male who was with him. After advising him of the city’s midnight curfew for teens, the officers allow him to leave.
After a Ferguson, Mo., police officer fatally shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9, and the subsequent rioting, the Obama administration suggested more body cameras for police officers. As it turns out, law enforcement agencies throughout the nation were already headed in that direction.
The Great Bend Police Department has nine body cameras for its officers, Lt. William Browne said.
“We’ve been working on getting body cameras for the past year now,” he said. Officers have been testing different cameras for a few months and the department is in the process of writing the policies for their use. There are privacy and accountability issues to deal with, as well as rules about when the camera is turned on and how long a recording is saved.
Polices also had to be written when the city obtained dashboard cameras. All of the city’s marked patrol cars have been equipped with cameras for some time, Browne noted. They are on whenever the vehicle is running, so that any time the emergency lights are activated, there will be a video record starting 60 seconds before the activation.
The car cameras have been useful tools that can provided good evidence, but they do have their limitations. The camera’s view is similar to what someone in the driver’s seat would see. But a car can’t go into a house, Browne said.
According to a story from the daily online Bloomberg report, the Obama administration thinks body cameras can prevent future Fergusons and will dedicate $263 million to increasing their use by law enforcement agencies. The funding includes $75 million over three years to help police buy cameras, in addition to support for better training and oversight.
“In the days after Brown was shot, a petition on WhiteHouse.gov in support of legislation requiring all state, county, and local police to wear cameras gathered nearly 155,000 signatures,” Bloomberg reported.