Head-cam video used to OK Arkansas cop kill
'This will make for more polite encounters with police'
Vid In a case which may offer a glimpse of the future of law enforcement, an American policeman has been cleared of wrongdoing after shooting a man dead - with the aid of video and audio from a headset recorder he wore during the incident. After the decision, the video was released to the public.
KFSM 5 News broadcast this report, including the police headset vid, following the decision by Arkansas prosecutors in the wake of the shooting. Corporal Brandon Davis of the Fort Smith Police Department shot dead Eric Berry, 41, on November 11 after responding to a call for help from Berry's wife and finding Berry "brandishing" a handgun which he refused to put down.
As viewers will note, Brandon was wearing the headset above his left ear and standing in a doorway aiming his pistol in his right hand around the jamb: as a result, Berry's actions can't be seen. However prosecutors apparently accepted Brandon's assertion that he was holding a weapon and refused to put it down when repeatedly ordered to by Brandon.
"This will make I think for more polite encounters with police"
The headset was an "Axon" model from the famous cattleprod-gun firm Taser International, on trial with the Fort Smith cops.
"This video clearly demonstrates the power of the Axon on-officer camera," Taser chief Tom Smith told KFSM.
Taser has been led to develop cop-cams by the fact that it's electroshock weapons cause huge controversy when used by police - in general more controversy than actual firearms.
However, police deadly-force shootings are a fairly common event in America, and while they don't always make the national news they can cause a lot of discontent locally. There have been suggestions in the past that cop-cam video recordings should be routine, in order to confirm that plods have acted properly - and that where an officer is cleared of wrongdoing, the vid should be made public in order to reassure the local community.
Previous plans have often called for cameras on the actual gun, activated whenever the weapon is drawn - in the Brandon/Berry case this would surely have provided a better view. On the other hand, a headset recorder like the Axon means that details of less serious incidents, where guns stay holstered, would also be available.
"This will make I think for more polite encounters with police knowing that you're being taped," Fort Smith prosecutor Daniel Shue told KFSM.
Despite the fact that the Fort Smith plods are pleased with the way this case turned out, the department hasn't confirmed that it will move to the use of cop-cams as routine.
The mostly unarmed UK police have trialled head-cams too, though there have been a couple of unfortunate instances when the gadgets burst into flames in the style of iPods, laptops etc. Nonetheless, lower-ranking policemen's representatives have previously told the Reg that "we aren't against them".
Some British citizens, however, are strongly against policemen even taking pictures of them, and would presumably object to continual video records being generated from every helmet - much though this would seem likely to cut down somewhat on over-aggressive crowd control tactics and such practices.
There're more on the Arkansas shooting from KFSM here. ®