It’s not surprising that the prevalence of video cameras has changed the way police officers behave. Some of that is clearly for the better. There’s a greater accountability and some instances of police brutality and misbehaviour are being properly addressed.
But the fact that police officers are now less likely to engage with the public because of the risk that their interactions might be improperly portrayed or misinterpreted should be troubling to everyone. It’s not enough to say that if officers do nothing wrong, they have nothing to worry about, because short videos can sometimes lack important context and can also lead to swift condemnation from the public without hearing the entire story.
Before this goes any further, we should move quickly to implement body cameras on local officers. They aren’t a perfect solution, but given that so much of our lives is being captured on video now, it will help to provide additional evidence and more context than the quick videos that turn up on YouTube. It’s one thing to hold police officers accountable for their behaviour, but if they don’t feel comfortable doing their jobs, we all lose.