Sheriff's Cam Caution Is Warranted, Unfortunately; Too Bad I Don't Think Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight [Derived Headline]

By Lyons, Tom | Sarasota Herald Tribune, December 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Sheriff's Cam Caution Is Warranted, Unfortunately; Too Bad I Don't Think Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight [Derived Headline]


Lyons, Tom, Sarasota Herald Tribune


Too bad I don't think Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight is wrong about state law and cop cams.

There are hours and hours of police work of the sort that, if recorded on a cop-mounted camera, the playback would make a good sleep aid. But when something serious happens and we face a mystery about what took place during a police encounter, those recordings can be priceless.

The lack of one, on the other hand, often means we never feel sure that we know the truth about something seriously important. Cops falsely accused of needless brutality have no way to clear their reputations. Cops rightly accused of it may get away with bullying behavior or worse, simply by denying it and blaming the victim.

So I want cop cams, and there is an even better reason: The cameras don't just show how bad things happened, they can also prevent them.

Statistics I have no reason to doubt show that just knowing cops are wearing cameras during encounters with the public tends to change what happens. Cameras apparently make police and the people they talk to speak and behave with more respect for each other, and for the law.

Makes sense. Most people don't want to look like total jerks, or criminals, when every word and deed is recorded and can be used as evidence. Stats show that the clear result of cop cams is far fewer use-of-force incidents.

Credit better police behavior primarily, if you want to, or better behavior by the people they deal with, if you prefer. Or call it a tie.

Who knows?

But either way, the result is the same: Less bad stuff happens.

So I'd like to be firmly opposed to what Sheriff Knight just announced. But I can't.

Knight said he is not going to order or allow his deputies to routinely wear cameras until Florida law is revamped. His stated reason: People could be terribly embarrassed, through no fault of their own, by video and audio recordings of police visits, especially ones in their homes.

Such recordings could be made public without any good cause. Some would be posted online just to show scantily clad people during domestic problems, for instance, or simply because a tactless or hostile neighbor or some other scandal monger wants to have some fun at their expense.

Other people might have medical emergencies and exposed bodies turned into entertainment.

Anyone who doesn't trust Knight is free to assume it is really his own embarrassment he wants to avoid. …

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