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Police cameras: lauded by some, questioned by others

Mobile body cameras worn by police officers on their uniforms are being increasingly seen in police departments across the country.

Arkansas is no exception, with officers in many towns and cities throughout the state now either experimenting with or already being tasked to wear such evidence-gathering tools at all times as they go about their duties.

That spells something positive, right? Shouldn't citizens be comforted knowing that videotape of police/citizen interactions will often be available for public viewing if a troublesome question or issue regarding "what happened" arises?

After all, the devices are clearly a tool that provides for enhanced objectivity and much-needed transparency in encounters that might otherwise escalate and be forever unresolved regarding what the ultimate truth of a matter really was.

Actually, things are not that simple, which is underscored in a big way in a national news story spotlighting criticisms of police cameras and their potential for obscuring rather than clarifying reality in any given instance.

The Washington Post uses a 2014 case from New Mexico as a launching point for discussion regarding the growing concerns that many people have with the cameras. In that incident, a young woman was fatally shot by a police officer. Notably, not a single camera among six that were worn by officers on the scene provided any useful evidence at all concerning what happened.

And then there's this: A former custodian of video evidence for the involved department has testified that it was common practice for police officials there to alter or delete video footage based on "political calculations."

The bottom line with police cameras is that they will be construed in a positive way by the general public only to the extent that they are perceived to promote accuracy and transparency in police/citizen encounters.

Obviously, trust is materially diminished when questions arise regarding the purposeful manipulation of tape to alter evidence and hide unwanted truths from public scrutiny.

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