In the wake of so many recent missteps between police and the civilian population, many sociologists, police departments, and others have embraced body cams as the ideal solution to prevent, or at least clarify, incidents where facts are in dispute or things boil down to one party's word against the other's.
I agree, up to a point, but an argument is developing between police authorities, who in Washington DC and in some others areas are choosing to restrict broad access to the recordings, and absolutists, who proclaim all body-cam footage should be fully accessible to the public.
I'm with the cops on this. To date, DC police chief Cathy Lanier has mainly cited concerns about the privacy of individuals who turn up in such recordings, combined with the inability of hard-pressed and money-squeezed police departments to devote the time needed to edit out the innocents from such material. The authors of the referenced Washington Post opinion piece, Adam Marshall and Katie Townsend, say there are "robust privacy protections" that can protect individuals. That's unconvincing, and terribly naïve, when any idiot knows that whatever gets out in the public "eye" nowadays pretty much remains there.
But to my mind there's a greater danger in total access to everything on body cams. And not just the unimaginable proliferation of records that will seemingly need to be kept in perpetuity, though that's clearly a drag on society as a whole as well.
No, the main point is that it represents a further perversion of that process between "law" and "justice" I referred to in my last post. Many things will show up on a camera that after the fact, will seem evident but may not even have been noticeable by the participants. I would foresee endless second-guessing of what actually occurred, and what the police or other participants actually saw. People say that's what body cams show. I think they show what they might have seen.
In serious cases, obviously, we will expect - and get - release of body cam recordings so that disputes can be resolved, and justice delivered, even to errant police officers when necessary. Again here, the authors are being disingenuous to suggest that ALL videos will forever be inaccessible to the public. I have no real concern that laws restricting total access would "destroy the very reason for using this technology."
But extending access to every Tom, Dick, and Harriet looks like overreach to me. It simply opens the door to lawyerly fishing expeditions into completely routine cases. The result would be more clogged courts, ballooning costs of administration, delays, and extra work; but on the bright side - lots of billable hours.