Civil rights group gives Phoenix, Mesa police agencies failing g
Many U.S. police departments are now using body cameras, but how transparent are they being about how the technology is used?
In a November report, the ‘Leadership Conference,’ a Washington D.C.-based civil rights group, looked at 75 of the biggest agencies around the county, including two in the Valley.
It analyzed things like how easily the public can access the video, video storage and whether or not officers can view the video before making their reports.
The results look bad.
The survey failed both Mesa and Phoenix police in several categories. In fact, no department it looked at received a perfect rating.
Its goal was to show how these devices could potentially be abused.
“As more police departments utilize body-worn cameras, they must not be taken as the last word for police accountability,” said Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference.
“Our scorecard shows that many police departments are failing to adopt adequate safeguards for ensuring that constitutional rights are protected and our report shows that unrestricted footage review places civil rights and liberties at risk, and undermines the goals of transparency and accountability. Without carefully crafted policy safeguards in place, there is a real risk that body-worn cameras could be used in ways that threaten civil and constitutional rights and intensify the disproportionate surveillance of communities of color.”
Mark Spencer with Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group, questions the merit of the survey.
“I think there’s limited value when non-police personel, or non-police agencies, are generating policy. They’re making rules for a game they’ve never played,” said Spencer.
The scorecard dinged Mesa for not publishing its policy online and for allowing its officers to view video before making official reports, except for during serious incidents.
Mesa PD says it was never contacted about the survey. Saying in an emailed statement:
“We are constantly evaluating our policies regarding current best practices and industry standards. Our Body Worn Camera program is evaluated in the same manner. Although camera programs have been around for several years, they are still very new in the realm of policy and best practices,” – Det. Nik Rasheta, Mesa Police Department
The study penalized Phoenix PD for not making its footage easily available for review by individuals filing complaints, and for its vague policy on deleting footage.
The Phoenix police department says the survey was ‘filled with inaccuracies’ saying:
“The Phoenix Police Department continues to be industry leaders in the use of body worn camera technologies and policies. We work closely with the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Assistance to ensure our policy is consistent with, and in fact leading, national standards.” – Sgt. Jonathan Howard, Phoenix Police Dept.
Spencer says one thing the survey does show is a lack of uniform policy between departments within Arizona and around the U.S.
“We all need to be on the same page or we’ll lose evidence. And when we lose evidence in court, I don’t think the community is served very well,” said Spencer.
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