Proposed Raleigh police body camera policy criticized

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Proposed Raleigh police body camera policy criticized

A national group is speaking against a proposed Raleigh police body camera policy.

The policy would allow Raleigh police officers to review video from body cameras before writing a report on an incident; however, the group thinks the department should reconsider.

VIEW THE FULL PROPOSED POLICY

The proposed policy in question currently reads, "Officers are permitted to view recorded video to the extent allowed by and in accordance with NCGS 132-1.4A prior to completion of an incident report."

But Upturn, a national nonprofit group that examines technology's impact on civil rights and social justice, said police investigators would never allow an eyewitness to review video before giving their story and police should heed their own best practices.

"It actually makes it easier for officers to potentially act for the camera and to create false beliefs about what truly happened," said Upturn's Executive Director Harlan Yu. "And what this does is it also turns body-worn cameras into tools that primarily serve the interest of police, rather than as tools for police
accountability."

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Upturn's study on the issue raises questions about whether body cams always accurately depict what happened in a given incident.

Yu said many studies prior to theirs confirm videos can sometimes appear to alter people's view of what happened.

"We draw on the long history of cognitive science research that shows that when people watch videos it not only refreshes people's memories but also skews and taints what they think they actually remember," said Yu.

And a sampling of Raleigh residents agree.

While at lunch on Fayetteville Street in downtown, Raleigh resident Robert Forbes noted, "The ref gets to look at the instant replay but it's after he makes the call. Let's see what the officer's first gut feel and his first reaction was and then take a look at the events that led up to his decision making."

Grace Fazia then chimed in saying, "Reviewing something afterward could sway you. And you kind of want to go with what you first thought. You don't want to have to change your mind because I feel like your first opinion is normally the most raw and true one."

One Raleigh resident, Steve Kelly, said he could see both sides.

And in the one most favorable to police he said, "Often times their recollection of certain incidents might not be totally on point with what happened. And to be able to go back and watch the video, I think that the report could be more accurate."

Raleigh police noted that the policy has not yet been finalized and won't be until body cameras are implemented.

"Over the summer, our command staff presented this draft policy at meetings across the city and solicited citizen feedback.," Raleigh Police Department spokesperson Laura Hourigan told ABC 11. "We continue to solicit feedback and encourage citizens to logon to the city's website to review the draft."

Yu said he hopes the policy in Raleigh, and similar ones at police departments across the nation, will eventually be changed.

"It's important to ensure that an officer's report is an independent account from the officer's perspective about what happened and not just a narrative of the body-worn camera footage," he said.

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