Chris Powell: Videotape cops at work all the time

(Apologies for the format problem on  this)


On the whole, police officers are far more sinned against than sinning, but 
that's why they're police officers, the ones with the badges and guns, the ones 
supposed to be the good guys. But it's a difficult job and indications are 
growing that many officers are not fit for it. 

Those indications -- largely the result of the new ubiquity of security and 
mobile-phone video cameras -- are getting scary. 

Several such indications have arisen from the recent rioting and demonstrations 
in Ferguson, Mo., where a white officer shot a young and unarmed black man. 

Of course, many people have rushed to judgment about the shooting. It is more 
plausible that the officer shot the young man while the young man was charging 
at the officer than that the officer shot him for fun. But rioting and 
demonstrations are no excuse for police to go wild. To the contrary, that's when 
police conduct must be most careful -- and in Missouri it hasn't been. 

The other day in Ferguson an officer was videotaped pointing his military rifle 
at peaceful demonstrators and news reporters, cursing them and threatening to 
shoot them until another officer led him away. The first officer was suspended. 

Another Missouri officer was suspended recently after  a video of a lecture he had 
given was publicized. In the lecture the officer described himself as an 
"indiscriminate killer," adding, "I'm into diversity -- I kill everybody," and, 
"If you don't want to get killed, don't show up in front of me -- it's that 

He has been placed on desk duty pending review. 

A third Missouri officer was suspended for commenting that the protesters in 
Ferguson "should be put down like rabid dogs." 

All three officers probably will go back on the beat when the controversy fades. 
There's not enough accountability in government. 

But Connecticut residents don't have to go to Missouri to worry about police 
brutality and psychologically unfit officers. 

Two months ago two Bridgeport officers pleaded guilty to federal civil-rights 
charges for their stomping an unarmed petty criminal as he lay helpless on the 
ground following his disabling by a stun gun. The assault was captured on video 
by a passerby. The city will pay the petty criminal $198,000 in damages and the 
two officers have resigned and have promised never to seek police work again. 

Enfield's Police Department is dealing with the heavy-handedness of an officer 
who has been investigated on complaints of misconduct 17 times in seven years. 
In the most recent case, cruiser dashboard video shows him pummeling a man said 
to be resisting arrest. The state's attorney won't prosecute either man. 

And last week cell-phone and security-camera video recorded a Hartford officer 
using a stun gun on a young man who had obeyed his command to stop and was 
standing still, hands at his sides, 10 feet away. The officer continued to 
advance on the young man and shoting the stun gun at him from 4 feet away. Even 
Gov. Dannel  Malloy, speaking to a meeting of concerned citizens in Hartford, said 
he was shocked. The Hartford Police Department is investigating. 

For their protection and the public's, all police officers should be videotaped 
all the time -- and this would be easy to do, as there 
are not just dashboard cameras, already widely in use, but small cameras that 
can be affixed to uniforms and can record as much as 45 hours of image and 

The recent death of a man who was choked to death during his arrest in New York 
City has prompted the city's public advocate, Letitia James, to propose 
equipping all city police with uniform cameras. Connecticut law should require 

If Governor Malloy really was shocked the other day, he should propose such a 
requirement before the November election. His Republican challenger, Tom Foley, 
should endorse the idea as well. It is a matter of basic accountability in 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.