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Indybay Feature
Mon Mar 24 2014 (Updated 03/26/14)
PDRDs – Quick Fix for Police Misconduct, or Counter-Surveillance Tool?
Mon Mar 24 2014 (Updated 03/26/14)
Police Cameras Can Be Used to Manufacture Cases with Selective Use & Dishonest Narration
Rachel Lederman and Jacob Crawford write: The Oakland Police purchased PDRDs (Personal Digital Recording Devices) following the videotaped murder of Oscar Grant on January 1, 2009. Although Grant was murdered by a BART officer, there was fallout in the streets of Oakland against OPD, which has been unable to bring its police force under control despite its 2003 agreement to a federal court monitored consent decree. Oakland was one of the first agencies to implement PDRDs, so our experiences here should be instructive for those calling for PDRDs in other large urban areas where there is an entrenched police culture of racism and impunity.

In his most recent, January 2014, quarterly report, the court appointed Independent Monitor of the OPD found that “The matter of the proper use of the Department’s PDRDs remains a concern. In too many instances, there are questions about the measure to which personnel throughout the Department understand the use, review, and utility of these devices.” While there had been some improvement in the past six months over previous years, “recent assessments of force cases revealed several serious incidents in which officers – who were in a position to obtain evidence of the facts and circumstances surrounding the use of force – did not have or activate their PDRDs.”

Moreover, even when they are used, the chest cam doesn’t show close proximity physical encounters between an officer and victim, allowing the officer to supply his own narration, such as yelling “Stop resisting” while pummeling a person, or turning the camera on and stating that she smells marijuana or that he has just seen the person drop something that might be drugs, to justify a search, arrest or brutality. And officers are able to turn the cameras on and off at will, thus editing on the fly. Since, absent lawyers and major effort and expenditure, the videos are only accessible to the police and not the public, they effectively turn primarily into tools for the police to collect evidence against the public and combat the public’s videotaping of the police, by creating their videos from the law enforcement point of view videos.

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