About five years ago I was discussing the issue of body cams with a friend who is in an upper-level management position at Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The cameras seemed an unalloyed good thing to me (this was before I’d pondered privacy, storage, access, and retrieval issues). He was a lot more conflicted. He said the issue isn’t so much what happened, it is what the officer thought happened. So a body cam that shows a now-deceased person pulling a cell phone from their pocket doesn’t mean the officer didn’t think it was a pistol. But the presence of the video cuts against the officer’s contemporaneous recollections and often leaves the impression that the officer is just making stuff up. He’s right. But I’m not sure it matters. As I posted in February 2017, a body camera can make all the difference between and vicious thug righteously shot and an unarmed teenager profiled by police shot down in cold blood.
Here is another case where an officer avoided disciplinary action and possible prison due to a body camera.
Around 1:30 a.m. last Sunday Texas state trooper Daniel Hubbard executed a traffic stop for suspected DUI. The driver was 37-year-old Sherita Dixon-Cole. Hubbard administered a field sobriety test…she didn’t do all that well. A search of the car found two open bottles liquor under the seat. Hubbard placed her under arrest. And then the fun began. Dixon-Cole, or her friends, contacted Shaun King, aka Talcum X, the white guy who identifies as black and makes an apparently lucrative career as sort of an Al Sharpton without the bullhorn.
According to Dixon-Cole:
That’s the point when Cole said the trooper offered to let her go in return for sexual favors. However, the exchange is never heard in the body camera video.
Cole also accused the officer of fondling, groping and sexually assaulting her on the way to jail. Those claims were also not supported by the video.
Fortunately, Hubbard was wearing a body cam and recorded the entire arrest and ride to the police station. Dixon-Cole’s attorney demanded the footage to the arrest be released. The police did better than that, they released Hubbard’s body cam video, all two hours of it:
This is from the lawyer retained by Dixon-Cole:
The body camera footage released directly conflicts with the accounts reported to my office. There is no readily apparent evidence of tampering with the footage. Officer Daniel Hubbard seems to comport himself professionally during the duration of the traffic stop and arrest and— without more— should be cleared of any wrongdoing. It is deeply troubling when innocent parties are falsely accused and I am truly sorry for any trouble these claims may have caused Officer Hubbard and his family. I take full responsibility for amplifying these claims to the point of national concern. This office regularly receives hundreds of complaints of abuse from across the nation and we are obligated to filter these messages thoroughly before relaying them to our powerful allies. Our office necessarily takes claims of abuse— particularly by law enforcement officers— very seriously. It is our responsibility to call for swift, transparent and thorough investigation into any such accusation. Our calls for professionalism and adherence to protocol, however, should not be misconstrued as a rush to judgment. To the contrary, our goal in presenting claims of misconduct is to arrive as quickly and as accurately as possible to the truth. We are thankful to the members of the community willing to echo our demands for transparency and justice. However, in this matter it seems your righteous vigilance was abused.
King has posted an apology where, in a rather astonishing feat of blame jiu-jitsu (his apology is titled “When the “victim” you fought for turns out to be the victimizer”), he blames Dixon-Cole for his actions. Yes, she lied. But she isn’t the person that wound up tens of thousands of people via social media and convicted this officer of assault and rape without a shred of evidence.
Had Officer Hubbard not had a body cam. Or, worse yet, had he not observed department protocol on its use, he would be suspended and under investigation for sexual assault and he’d have no way of escaping the racist, white, Southern cop narrative that King would have continued to feed.
While I’m sympathetic to the argument against body cams, I’m convinced that we, all of us, cops and citizens, are safer when every interaction between police and citizens are recorded.
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