Niagara Gazette

Columns

April 9, 2013

CONFER: A police state for the police state

Niagara Gazette — The North Tonawanda Police Department recently joined numerous police forces nationwide that equip their officers with video cameras. The Patrol Division is now mandated to use an On-Officer Video Recording System during all law enforcement encounters with the public. At the end of every shift each officer is supposed to upload the videos to a web-based storage facility where they can be reviewed by supervisors and saved for evidentiary purposes.

This brand of reality TV is something relatively new to policing and it represents its future, not only locally, but nationwide, too. It’s a disconcerting development, because with these almost incognito cameras attached to their lapels or breastplates, police will have a mobile police state – a portable Big Brother – with them on patrol, not only on the streets, but in your homes as well.

We as citizens have a certain expectation of, and a Constitutionally-recognized right to, privacy. That expectation, as well as our faith in our trusted officers, will be tested by these cameras. Now, when a lone officer is welcomed into one’s home it won’t be just him that the citizen will be interacting with; it will be the extra sets of eyes that will be viewing the footage later, folks who may be less accommodating than the patrolman and could initiate a police action based upon what the camera may have picked up in the background – be it a legally-owned firearm in the corner of the room, a shady looking individual, or the presence of a vice like alcohol or marijuana. It’s like having government spying on your home.

That aforementioned trust in our local patrols – and theirs in us - will be forcibly breached by the cameras when it comes to routine traffic stops and other policing. Quite often, depending on the temperament of the person driving a speeding car or teens partying too loudly, a cop will be a good ambassador for the force and reprimand them, giving them a slap on the wrist or a lesser citation.

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