The Po-Po is back at it again.
Barely three months after Ferguson protests escalated in light of Michael Brown’s death, a Baltimore cop was charged with assault and perjury for beating a man for no apparent reason, then lying about it, in an incident caught on CitiWatch crime cameras, once again shedding light on the role technology plays in police misconduct. Once again, the question is raised: Should cops wear body cameras?
For Matthew Fogg the answer is a solid yes. But, the retired chief deputy of the US Marshal Services says this is only the first step in the right direction since “a lot of things [are] wrong in the inside.”
Fogg, 62, told PINAC exclusively on Thursday that in order for police brutality to wind down there needs to be a safety net for officers who speak up when seeing wrongdoing. Instead, he said, cops are looked down upon, are seen as not being team players and even have their lives threatened if they speak up.
“[For] officers who want to speak out, give them protection,” Fogg told PINAC. “It is very difficult to deal with law enforcement. They will crush you,” he said adding that “you can easily lose your life and have devastating consequences in your career.”
Fogg, who served as a US Marshal from 1976 to 2008, spoke openly about recording the police, the use of body cameras on police officers and his own struggles with the service at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C. last week . The seminar was streamed on C-Span and included police brutality experts Steve Silverman and Jonathan Blanks.
Video of the seminar is not embeddable but can be viewed here. At almost 90 minutes, it’s worth the watch.
“Officers don’t get convicted,” said Fogg adding that this occurs because of the “huge network” police officers have in place to protect one another no matter what violation cops commit. “Body cameras are good,” he continued. “But the network behind you says ‘this is how we do it here.” ‘
According to a Cato Institute quarterly report titled “The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project” there were 4,861 reports of police misconduct that involved 6,613 police officers and 6,826 alleged victims from January 2010 through December 2010.
In the seminar, Fogg highlights how he witnessed many “questionable” things while being a U.S. Marshall including the harassment of fellow officers who would be targeted if they spoke out against other cops violating people’s rights.
“[The] network includes, police, judges, prosecutors and the grand jury,” said Fogg. “These close relationships have a major influence on those cases and whether they are going to be indicted or not.”
So what does Fogg propose will fix the broken system? More oversight and gathering more statistical data to close up the racial disparity that leads– in most cases– to police misconduct.
“Oversight on top of oversight,” Fogg told PINAC. “There are a lot of political pundits out there who say we do not need all that capturing data but yes we do.”
“This [system] is a human rights violation machine,” added Fogg who sat on the board of Amnesty International for over six years. “The problem is accountability… No one cares if they are going after white people doing the same thing [as Hispanics and Blacks]. They go after the weakest link. The marginalized. The de-valued.”
Steve Silverman, founder and executive director of the watchdog organization monitoring police misconduct Flex Your Rights agrees with Fogg stating that making cops wear cameras is a step forward but it is not a solution to the entire issue at hand.
“You can’t count on cameras to cure the problem,” said Silverman. “What video does is bring us closer to the truth and the truth can bring us closer to justice and accountability.” The scholar also added how these police officers “will protect whomever just to keep the peace” including child molesters in the force.
Jonathan Blanks– a Cato Institute researcher and blogger— thinks police officers acting out proof there is a bigger underlying issue of race an opinion that Fogg too concurs with.
“There are cultural problems in the force,” said Blanks. “The more we know, the better we can deal with police bad apples. Technology is a growing part of maintaining that accountability… from both police and citizens.”
“[Body cameras] can exonerate an innocent person but also helps the police,” he said adding that “we would have had a better idea of what happened and what led to Michael Brown’s death” had that cop been wired with a camera.
Another topic discussed was the part that citizen’s play in recording police brutality and the most effective way to do so. As Silverman detailed his five guidelines to recording police activity in public, he also highlighted the privacy concerns body cameras bring for cops.
“[Police officers]are learning to have an expectation when in public that you don’t have privacy,” he said.
Fogg chimed in stating that “once the police come to the scene there is no more privacy anyway.”
“America needs to see what you do,” Fogg said. “We should not have a problem with that. It is your job.”