Editorial: Body cameras protect everyone
Let’s go to the video.
We believe our eyes, but sometimes our eyes might stretch the truth. They might say what we want to hear. They might pick a side.
And that is why body cameras on police are important.
Today everybody has a television studio in their pocket. Every cellphone is a chance to freeze a moment in time. That is powerful. It is also perspective.
There have been so many videos of confrontations that set off sparks of fear or panic or outrage. Smartphones have caught and distributed images of men dying in their cars or lying face down on the street. They have captured last words and last breaths.
That is valuable. That gives vision to things that have to be seen.
But the Pittsburgh area learned with the Antwon Rose II shooting that the videos can ask as many questions as they answer.
They make us NFL referees, slowing down the instant replay and deciding where the rules were broken and where they were obeyed. They make us partisan, opposing fans seeing the same video and coming away with proof of pass interference or a touchdown.
Body cameras give another angle and another perspective, provided they are used consistently and conscientiously.
When they are turned on, they become more than a tool. They can be a first-person witness — impartial and detached but with a front-row seat to any interaction between officers and the public.
And when they are turned off, the black screen of the absent video isn’t silent. It asks other questions. Why was it turned off? How often does it happen? What wasn’t recorded?
That is why the Pittsburgh police department’s progress toward putting a body camera on all 900 officers by the end of the year is positive.
It protects good cops. It protects the integrity of the police department. It protects the public trust. And it protects the people whose lives bring them into contact with the police, whether at a traffic stop or a domestic disturbance or a criminal call.
It just needs to be used appropriately. Every day. Every time.