A tale of 2 videos: A case study in why you should have a body-worn camera

Body-worn, on-officer cameras ensure that there is more than just one video recorded of a use-of-force incident

Earlier this week, we carried a news item with the headline Video: Ariz. police take down resisting suspect as crowd heckles.

As you might imagine, it garnered a slew of comments. Upon seeing that item, my comment to myself (not posted online) was, “I hope that cop was equipped with his own camera.”

Well, it turns out, he was. 

Another news story about this incident came to light the following day, and in it we get to see both the video shot by the onlooker — a gentleman named Kameron Babbitt — as well as the officer involved. 

A Tale of Two Videos

Being “Equipped” Requires Actual Equipment
“There are two sides to every story,” said that report by KSAZ Fox 10-TV, “and we'll show you both.”

That statement is awesome on several levels, but it would not be possible had several things in recent history not happened. 

1.) Someone at Mesa PD recognized the need for and the value of body-worn cameras
2.) Someone at Mesa PD authorized the purchase of a body-worn camera technology
3.) Someone at Mesa PD created policies, procedures, and training for body-worn cameras
4.) Someone at Mesa PD established viable, working relationships with the local media
5.) Someone at Mesa PD released the video of this incident to at least one media contact

If those five things hadn’t happened, we would not be having this discussion. Period, end of story. 

It’s no secret that I’m a strong advocate for body-worn, on-officer video cameras. They have the potential to make everyone involved behave just a little bit better, which in turn, potentially makes everyone involved at least a little bit safer. 

Furthermore, body-worn, on-officer video cameras have the potential to reduce citizen complaints against officers. According to a 12-month study conducted by Rialto (Calif.) Police and TASER International, when the agency began experimenting with the TASER AXON Flex body-worn video camera system used in conjunction with EVIDENCE.com they saw a tremendous decline complaints against officers.

Finally, body-worn, on-officer cameras also ensure that there is more than just one video recorded of a use-of-force incident. We will still get third-person-perspective “viral video” posted to the internet from a bystander’s shaky, unclear, cell phone camera, but we’ll also get a record of that incident taken from the officer’s perspective. 

This incident is a perfect example.

"I didn't know what I was seeing," Babbitt said in that news report. 

That’s right, Mr. Babbitt, you didn’t. 

But the officer involved did, and fortunately, he was equipped with a video camera. Fortunately, that officer’s supervisor (or someone else in the chain of command) got wind of the fact that Babbitt’s video was “going viral” and knew enough to review the video from the officer’s AXON Flex camera. 

Ultimately, Mesa PD gave the video to the media, which we now have for review. In essence, this is a near-real-time case study in why officers and agencies are well-served by ‘cop cams.’

I know there is some resistance out there.

I know there’s hesitancy due to what some feel is a ‘Big Brother factor.’

I get it. 

The agency administration must absolutely ensure that this technology is not used inappropriately. It is not for “gotcha supervision” or micromanagement of officer’s day-to-day work. 

A while back, I interviewed Captain Joe Fiumara of Lake Havasu (Ariz.) Police Department on his agency’s adoption of on-officer video cameras, and he addressed that problem perfectly in my opinion.  

“At all costs, avoid the temptation to use this for any kind of micromanagement — you don’t want to go down that road,” Fiumara told me. 

“Recognize that the benefits will reveal themselves when you get the technology out there and let the positive experiences rack up. Those positive experiences get out there, and they get communicated agency wide.” 

Like the incident in Mesa this week...

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor at Large for PoliceOne, providing police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column, and has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips. Doug hosts the PoliceOne Podcast, Policing Matters, and is the host for PoliceOne Video interviews. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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