The GOP Congress Plans to "Step In It"
With the current focus on violent police misconduct in departments around the country, the discussion has turned -- in a very favorable and constructive way -- to the advantages of a much wider use of police lapel cameras. MeanMesa couldn't agree more.
To his credit, the President has proposed $260 Mn in federal assistance to enable states and municipalities to purchase around 50,000 lapel cameras for their police forces. [Read more here - NBC News]
However, aside from the reactionary throwbacks in the Congress who have already announced that Federal subsidy funding to help municipalities afford the cameras is a "non-starter," [The plan's biggest problems are that the black man in the Oval Office suggested it and that the companies selling the cameras apparently don't have lobbyists.] the main difficulty being discussed is not about the politics of the plan, the technology or the cost. It is about whether or not police officers will activate the cameras in time to record evidence as events were unfolding.
The "reasons" commonly cited by police for not activating the cameras are, well, legion.
|Law and order. [image source]|
We can discuss a few of those later in the post. In the meantime, however, let's explore an idea which MeanMesa thinks might help. After all, this blog is all about solutions.
Turning On the Cameras
MeanMesa offers a simple solution...
Right away we should note that what's to be proposed here is not a perfect solution. Instead, let's try to think of it as a 40% - 50% solution.
With just a wee bit of additional technology, the cameras' activation switches can be converted to "sound activation."
Whenever a policeman is around any sound considered loud enough to suggest a "film-able encounter" might be occurring, the sound itself automatically activates the camera. Some of the sounds loud enough to activate a camera might be those of a gun shot, a scream, a car crash, a store window breaking or even a sound the police officer might make for exactly this purpose. The sound of an alarm should do it, too. [...including the sound of a patrol car siren...]
Further, a patrol car's dash camera could have the same kind of activation trigger. And, although patrol car dash cameras are designed to record the view through the wind shield from inside the patrol car, this limitation doesn't necessarily have to be the "final word" either.
A camera mounted on the top of the patrol car which could rotate to face such a "triggering sound" could also be useful in recording all sorts of events occurring within 20 or 30 yards or even farther away. The technology required to sense such a sound, to determine the direction from which it was arriving and to rotate a camera to that direction is "yesterday's news."
MeanMesa actually assumes that the NSA probably already has a warehouse somewhere full of unused, obsolete cameras on motorized mountings with exactly these features which are quite capable of doing just this.
The "40% - 50% solution" part of this arises from the fact that even when some sound triggers these cameras, much of what might be considered to be potential evidence at trial has already happened. Still, compared to the present cases when -- for some reason -- there is no video of an incident, a record of what was happening the moment the sound was made and what followed would be helpful.
In the case of the Ferguson shooting, this idea would have activated the officer's lapel camera and a camera mounted on the roof of the police cruiser after the first shot.
Now, if only there were technology which could turn on the cameras before the noise.
MeanMesa's compliments to the President.