Harden Law Offices

104 Main Street, Lancaster, NH 03584 603.788.2080
15 Main Street, Littleton, NH 03561 603.444.2084
199 Heater Road, Lebanon, NH 03766 603.448.3737
www.dwilawyernh.net
info@lenharden.com

Friday, May 13, 2016

Time to Mandate Video by Police


POLICE NEED TO GET VIDEO EQUIPMENT!

NH has just become national news based on the actions of a NH State Police Trooper who is still unnamed, Nashua Police and Massachusetts Police beating a 50 year old who appeared to have surrender. See the story here:

Washington Post

Fox News

Reuters

ABC News

CBS News

News of police beating a citizen is the exception and most police are not thugs and brutes.  This type of case affects the entire system both good cops and bad.  There is a very simple way to stop this behavior, record every stop, arrest and interaction with police.

This brutal attack will result in a loss of trust and confidence by the public.  Sadly, it is also not an isolated incident, Rodney King's beating was captured by George Holliday back on March 3, 1991.  In over 25 years since Rodney King video went public video technology has become commonplace.  A quick search will reveal recorded police beatings and shootings.

The cost of videos is virtually non-existent yet soe police agencies refuse to record or elect not to record interactions with citizens.  The NH State Police have one of the largest budget items in the state and yet as an agency they do not endorse recording arrests, stops and citizen interactions. The State Police contend that they can't afford to spend money to record stops and arrest.  I contend that they can't afford not to record.  Take a look at the Governor's Executive Summary of FY 2015 highlighting the State Police budget:


A budget of $45 million dollars includes new cruisers, cyber tracking equipment and more but no video recording equipment.

Another practical way to look at this is the reality is that almost every officer has a cell phone capable of recording videos, for that matter so do most citizens.  Video recordings are ubiquitous.  There is no reason in 2016 that every citizen encounter can't be recorded. 

I have defended citizens accused of crimes for over 20 years and in my experience most police do a good job and try to do the right thing.  I can think of only one NH State Trooper who does use video technology and records all interactions with citizens.  In my experience this trooper that has a camera is also very likely the one that would not step over the line and is always highly professional.  There is no reason that the State Police have to not have video recordings of all contacts with citizens. 

Another interesting point is that northern NH is a poor area with small towns that struggle with expenses.  Yet there are some small town departments in Northern NH that actually require and routinely use body cameras and video cameras as common protocols and procedures:  Berlin, Lancaster, Haverhill, Littleton and Lebanon to name a few.  Examine the budgetary restriction of one of these town, Haverhill NH Police Department had 7 full time officer and in 2014 a total budget of $944,084 yet they use body cameras on each officer as well as video cameras on the cruiser. This is a commitment to gathering quality evidence and capturing real time statements.

If these small towns can manage to video record the police so can other towns and larger departments including the NH State Police.

The towns that readily provide video to citizens charged with crimes recognize many benefits.  The videos provide real time evidence of the events and often eliminate any issues about what was said or done.  In short they are generally great sources of evidence and help our justice system arrive at the truth.

In  my opinion the videos also cut down on the number of trials, issues as trials and in the long run save the towns money in terms of officer and court time.  The videos also reduce the risk of false allegations being made against police involving brutality, sexual assaults and theft.  In short videos help the good police and the good citizen.  The videos also will expose the bad police and the bad citizen.

Video recording of all police interactions should be mandated.  Banks, big box stores, retailers, gas stations, convenience stores, bars and restaurants all use video for loss prevention and other reasons.  In 2016 we expect to be recorded when we shop, bank or go to the corner store.  South Carolina became the first state to pass a law that mandates police use body cameras to record arrests.

We as Americans should demand transparency and clarity in our interactions with the police by requiring all arrests, detentions and police interrogations be recorded.