Body Worn Cameras for trust and transparency
Body Worn Cameras (BWC) are a tool for law enforcement agencies to demonstrate commitment to transparency, ensure the accountability of its members, increase the public’s trust in officers, and protect department members from unjustified complaints of misconduct. (San Francisco Police Department Statement on Body Worn Cameras)
The SFPD’s Body Worn Camera Policy was adopted on 06/01/2016. All 10 of SFPD’s District Stations have been trained, along with the Traffic Company and Headquarters personnel. The remaining units were scheduled for training completion by the end of March 2017.
Body Worn Cameras provide a way of checking the neutrality and accuracy of police reports.
Reading police reports critically
If you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony you or your attorney are entitled to receive all police incident reports and Body Worn Camera footage. The Police Incident Report will typically contain a chronological narrative of the events leading up to the detention, search and arrest of a suspect. The chronological narrative is usually written by an investigator or other supervisory staff. The arresting office and assisting officers will write narrative reports that purport to provide a factual summary of the events leading to the arrest. These reports will detail actions taken by assisting officers and statements by the arrestee and witnesses.
Although police reports are required to be truthful, accurate and neutral, they are written by human beings whose biases and perceptions can cloud their narrative. For example, Bob tells the police that that he was assaulted for no reason by Sam, who just was discharged from parole and is a registered sex offender. Police talk to witnesses who state that Sam did in fact punch Bob in the face causing a bloody nose. And they state that Bob had cursed Sam and while cursing him spat in his face. The police narrative is that Sam, an ex-felon was the aggressor and do not mention witness statements about Bob cursing Sam and spitting in his face. They also neglect to report that Sam told the arresting officer that he had a witness who could confirm that he only punched Bob after Bob cursed him and spit in his face. The report also neglects to state that the witnesses did not see the inception of the incident. These material omissions significantly alter the narrative. We know what was actually said and what was not written in the report because of BWC footage.
Body Worn Cameras as a Tool for the Defense
Body worn camera footage can provide an unfiltered real time view of what transpired and what was said leading up to and through an arrest. Viewing body worn camera footage can reveal bias by police officers, a rush to judgment and refusal to investigate. BWC can reveal statements in police reports that do not report facts but conclusions.
A lawyer experienced in deciphering police reports and jargon and reviewing BWC through the prism of both a defense lawyer and police officer can provide unique insight in finding errors, inconsistencies and bias that can be used to get charges dismissed before trial or gain an acquittal at trial.
To make sure that you have the strong and reliable defense you need, contact the experienced San Francisco criminal defense lawyers at Uthman Law Office. Our team has been providing quality representation to our criminal defense clients for many years. Attorney David Uthman has over 20 years of experience as a litigation attorney and almost a decade of experience as a police officer. Put our knowledge of the law and the system to work for you. Call us today at (415) 556-9200 to schedule your FREE initial consultation to get the help you need.
More blog posts:
How Very Small Details Can Potentially Make a Very Big Difference in Your California Criminal Case, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, April 6, 2018