We Still Need Body Cameras on Police

This Jan. 15, 2014 file photo a Los Angeles Police officer wears an on-body cameras during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles. Officers in one of every six departments around the country are now patrolling with these tiny cameras on their chests, lapels or sunglasses, and that number is growing. Most civil libertarians support their expansion despite concerns about the development of policies governing their use and their impact on privacy. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes,File)

In this January 15, 2014, file photo a Los Angeles Police officer wears an on-body camera during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles. (AP | Damian Dovarganes,File)

It’s way too early to give up on putting body cameras on police.

When a New York grand jury decided last week not to indict the police officer who had been seen on video applying the chokehold that killed Eric Garner, a lot of observers decided it was time to declare the still-nascent body camera movement dead. After all, we saw everything we needed to see on video in Garner’s death, right? If it won’t work in his case, then what’s the point?

The body-camera backlash came just as the SEPTA Police and the Philadelphia Police both are in the midst of pilot programs to test cameras and specific policies regarding them. SEPTA Chief Thomas Nestel is unabashedly enthusiastic: “The police officers who are using them are completely sold,” he told me recently. Commissioner Charles Ramsey said  he wanted the cameras to help “build community trust.”

Only body cameras, we’re now being told, are no cure-all. That’s exactly right, but also wildly incomplete: Body cameras are not the silver bullet that will always provide the definitive account of every encounter between citizens and the police — because there is no silver bullet.

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Ramsey to Co-Chair White House Task Force

Philly Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey will help lead the national response to events in Ferguson, Mo, leading a White House task force on “21st century policing.”
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Philly Police Testing Wearable Cameras

Las Vegas police Sgt. Peter Ferranti models a body camera Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in Las Vegas. The camera is the same type now being used by about 200 street officers in Las Vegas. Philly has started testing body cameras. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Las Vegas police Sgt. Peter Ferranti models a body camera Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in Las Vegas. The camera is the same type now being used by about 200 street officers in Las Vegas. Philly has started testing body cameras. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Philly Police have begun a pilot program to test wearable body cameras on officers, Newsworks reports:

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Daniel Faulkner Mural Dedicated at Emotional Ceremony

Faulkner mura. Photo by Dan McQuade

Photo | Dan McQuade

A mural memorializing Daniel Faulkner, the police officer shot to death at 13th and Locust in 1981, was unveiled today on the 6th Police District headquarters in Chinatown. Scores of people, mostly police officers, gathered at 11th and Winter streets for the mural’s dedication.

The mural was done by Jon Laidacker, a 2007 PAFA grad. It was conceived just a few months ago by Police Sgt. Mark Palma, who went to Fraternal Order of Police head John McNesby and the Mural Arts Program with the idea. “Murals are one way of lifting up our heroes,” MAP head Jane Golden said.

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Death Warrant Signed for Rapper Who Killed Philadelphia Police Officer

Office Lauretha Vaird's funeral, January 11, 1996. AP file photo/Nanine Hartzenbusch

Officer Lauretha Vaird’s funeral, January 11, 1996. AP file photo/Nanine Hartzenbusch

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has signed an execution warrant for the man convicted of Philadelphia police officer Lauretha Vaird’s murder.

Christopher Roney, who was convicted of killing Vaird during a January 1996 bank robbery in Feltonville on Rising Sun Avenue, is scheduled to be executed on January 8th of next year. Vaird, who was wearing a bulletproof vest without its protective panels, was killed by a single shot to the abdomen; she was the first female officer killed in the line of duty.

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Philly Police, Activists Prepare for Ferguson Reaction

Matt Rourke/AP

Matt Rourke/AP

Over the summer, the nation’s attention focused on Ferguson, Missouri, for several weeks as protesters clashed with cops in the aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed black man, Michael Brown, by a police officer. Now officials in Missouri are bracing for the results of a grand jury — whether the officer will be indicted for the shooting — and police departments nationwide are preparing for possible protests in their own cities.

Philadelphia is no exception.
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Riding With Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey

Photograph by Christopher Leaman

Photograph by Christopher Leaman

Time: 3 p.m. Day: Monday. Location: PPD Car 1.

A conversation with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey can take unpredictable turns, like the hard right his driver hangs at high speed onto Hunting Park Avenue as Ramsey’s thumb jams an ear-splitting siren. We’re en route to a double shooting in the city’s Logan neighborhood.

“Well, you got a little bit more than you bargained for,” Ramsey tells me a few frantic blocks later. Behind him, yellow police tape cordons off a crime scene just outside Albert Einstein Medical Center where a 15-year-old girl — a bystander — was shot and killed minutes earlier. “Now you know,” he says, “this shit can turn on a dime.”
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Report: Philly Paid Out $40 Million for Police Misconduct

police-money-940x540

MuckRock, an investigative website that specializes in open-records requests, says Philadelphia has paid more than $40 million to settle nearly 600 police misconduct suits since 2009.

Sound like a lot? The folks at MuckRock think so.

“The numbers dwarf comparable statistics in other major cities for which MuckRock obtained the same data,” MuckRock reported. “For example, the cities of Indianapolis, San Francisco, San Jose, and Austin settled or lost a combined 122 police misconduct cases — compared to 586 cases in Philadelphia.”

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