Police Body Cams Helping Cops in the Courtroom?

My father used to tell me all the time when I was growing up, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” Well, that might just be happening in courtrooms all across the United States when juries “go to the videotape.” Are these police videos now helping exonerate officers to in the courtroom? Would the outcome be any different if there was no video?

Police Shooting Cases

In the past few weeks, three officer-involved shooting cases ended in either an acquittal or mistrial. The cases each had video evidence that was supplied by police body cams and/or dashboard cams. Here is a list of the recent cases:

  • P.O. Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando¬†Castile during a car stop in Minnesota
  • P.O. Raymond Tensing shot Samuel Dubose during a car stop near Cincinnati
  • P.O. Dominique Heaggan-Brown shot Sylville Smith in Milwaukee

The question remains, did the videos actually sway the juries more? If you watch the dashcam video on the Philando¬†Castile shooting, one has to wonder if the jury felt stress in the situation. It’s my opinion that these videos give insight into how difficult it is to make a split-second decision to shoot. Most police officers never fire their guns outside of the shooting range.

Statistics on Police Shootings

There is little government statistics on shootings by law enforcement officers in the United States. The FBI compiles numbers, but they are woefully inadequate. The Washington Post has been maintaining an online database of police shootings for a few years now. These statistics aren’t 100% accurate either, but it’s better than anything else out there.

Like I say in the interview, “There is no such thing as a good police shooting. They are either justified or not.”

I had an opportunity to discuss this case on MSNBC’s show, The Point, with host Ari Melber.