Bad Cops Caught on Camera

Surveillance cameras are great for catching bad guys red-handed. Unfortunately, far too often, the outrageous crimes caught on camera are committed by police officers:

As is common in excessive force cases, the victim received several criminal charges, all of which will likely be dropped in light of the compelling video evidence. Whether the officer responsible for this savage assault will be disciplined remains to be seen, but this story certainly has “major lawsuit” written all over it.

Meanwhile in Florida, the same exact thing happened. The suspect was charged with felony assault on a police officer, until this video surfaced:

Anyone can plainly see that it was the police who were guilty of assault, not the other way around. And worse yet, the prosecutor who dropped the charges couldn’t even bring himself to admit that the guy was innocent:

“We thought based on the facts and the evidence, including the videotape, that there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial,” said Lee Cohen, assistant state attorney in charge of misdemeanor cases.

Of course, it shouldn’t be a question of whether or not you can convict him. The guy didn’t do anything wrong. The police broke his nose, lied about it, and dragged him through a terrifying six-month legal battle that could have ruined his life. After all that, the only decent thing to do is admit he’s innocent, give him the mother of all apologies, and hope he doesn’t sue the department for all it’s worth.

As video technology grows cheaper and more ubiquitous, examples of gratuitous police brutality, cover-ups and false arrests are emerging routinely. Simultaneously, the web provides an efficient mechanism for exposing such conduct to the public and drawing much-needed attention to patterns of police abuse and misconduct that would otherwise have been known only to the victims. It should go without saying that police are responsible for protecting public safety – as opposed to beating up innocent people – and it’s just shameful that it’s even necessary to constantly review the tape to make sure our police officers are telling us the truth.

Alas, the real turning point in the fight against police brutality may come not because police culture takes a meaningful stand against misconduct, but rather because it may soon become nearly impossible for police to horribly abuse their power without getting caught on hidden camera.