Police body cams won’t be turned on during the inauguration and Women’s March on Washington—and, strangely enough, the ACLU supports this.
The ACLU is encouraging protesters to record police on their phones in the event of any civil rights violations. But they have also argued that if police record everything on body cameras, they will just be doing unnecessary surveillance on protestors that could eventually be used to unlawful effect.
“From the very beginning, the question about body cameras is: Will they actually be serving as an oversight mechanism to help reduce abuse by police officers, or are they going to become just another surveillance tool that serves the interests of law enforcement?” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU, to The Daily Beast. “One of the concerns, among other things, is these are roving government video cameras.”
Police have access to facial recognition software that could let them identify almost everyone who attended any anti-Trump protests, according to the ACLU. This potentially could be used to accuse activists of crimes committed during the marches just by virtue of them being in the same area as a crime was committed.
Washington, D.C. law holds that cops cannot turn on their cameras for mere surveillance purposes during protests, but that they must turn on their body cameras during any kind of interaction with a member of the public, whether violent or not. Still, there have been instances of police violence where the officer claimed to forget to turn on their camera.
“One of the things you learn about when you work on police body cameras is that there are a lot of conflicting values here,” Stanley said, adding that a perfect policy is impossible.
The ACLU does, however, have an app that lets users lawfully film police. It says there is no contradiction there.
“As we’ve said many times, there is no reason for the government to be filming or otherwise monitoring its citizens absent suspicion of wrongdoing—but it absolutely is the people’s right to monitor their government, including police officers, and how they are doing their jobs,” Stanley said in an ACLU blog post. “Citizens should be watching their government—but not vice-versa.”
[Image: Getty Images]