In today’s videoed and camera toting society, all of law enforcement is recorded more than anyone could have fathomed. Now much of this may have begun innocently enough with the reality television viewer’s unquenchable hunger for police action. Everyone enjoys the occasionally dumb crook thrown in for good measure. Chiefs and Sheriffs clamored for these crews to get their department’s name out there. Several television shows gave the live action and thrills of police work to every viewer and it continues to thrive. Granted some of the ‘action’ may or may not have been acceptable police procedures. Most cops I know armchair quarterbacked these spoofs for not being too professional at all. Personally, I saw this as a tourism or real estate killer, why would I want to go to a city where it is like an action movie all the time?
However, the dye was cast; the television viewing public now has a rudimentary idea of what police work should look like, or so it seems. So, now every mobile device out there which is capable of recording is in the hands of the next would be producer. Add a brief clip from a mobile phone and everyone now knows why the cops are wrong. I do need to add a caveat to all of this. There are bad cops, just as there are bad teachers, bankers, cooks and so forth. I do not automatically defend a cop on a video until I have all of the facts, not just the tabloid’s clip. Let’s be realistic, we don’t want rouge cops ruining the vocation. However, we want all to have proper and due process.
Every professional police trainer I know embraces the new officer safety initiatives. All of the tacticians give their spin on safety and awareness. Officer safety is that important and yes I want all to go home safe and in one piece. However it appears we must add yet another safety initiative for officer survival that of watching for cameras. Our legal survival is getting very important for the media will try with prejudices. Without being paranoid, the way I explain this to my staff is to treat it as if there is a camera everywhere. I am not even broaching the body camera issue at all.
Please remember it is not just an aspiring citizen but security cameras now appear to be everywhere. I would recommend that you inquire with the stores you frequent, patrol around and do business with. This may provide you video to solve a crime and maybe protect yourself in the long run. Also, stop and think about the motorcyclists, skaters and bicyclists who are adding the personal action cameras to record their ride experience and traffic encounters. It is not uncommon for wildlife or game cameras to be posted as well for security or inquisitiveness (could be watching for a Sasquatch). I am sure I have left out some form of recording technology and am positive that a new form will be out on the market soon.
I must admit that I had a charmed patrol career. I worked with a zone that had members that purely looked out for each other. If one of us was losing our cool, the other interceded. Not that we could not handle it, but cooler heads often equated to less use of force paperwork and complaints. Looking back at it, we had one bond that cemented us. We all purely hated our patrol sergeant who has been my model when teaching leadership as the worst sergeant of all time. We watched each other’s backs to protect us from his unscrupulous ways. So taking a note from the how to survive an evil patrol sergeant, here goes.
We are taught to scan and watch our six (6 or 360). The problem here today is the cameras are either so small (not like the television cameras of yesteryear) or unseen. I do not want officers to become so paranoid that they are searching for the small technology and allow themselves to be injured by an assailant. Nor do I want you walking around afraid either. Rule of thumb- treat every situation as if you are being filmed.
If you are filmed, calm down for this is nothing new. We have had cameras on the sally ports, on board vehicle recorders, holding areas, banks and so forth. You have conducted yourself as a professional then, so this is nothing new, act professional all of the time.
Here are a few things to remember about living within the new world of cameras. First of all, the camera can only be two dimensional; it will not show everything so there is room for interpretation. Most of these may not record all ambient noises, sounds and conversations. Reminder here is remembering the cardinal rule of staying out of internal affairs. If it feels good to say it, don’t say it! Lighting and shadows will create interpretation issues, there is no cinema lighting out there. Breaks or gaps in recording will always raise warning flags. Amazing how the bad cop video on the net is only for a few seconds clipping from several minutes of filming.
I know that there are other methods to assure that you are caught in bad light. Even if you are, this is akin to a player sliding into home plate and everyone is the umpire. Some call safe and others call out. For your professional survival, act professional and keep your integrity at all times. Sure, there will be a challenge but training and preparation to defend this pays off. Train Hard and Train Smart!