Here Is What Happened When Police Started Wearing Cameras In Rialto, California


When police arrest people, they are read their miranda rights. But in the city of Rialto, California, they hear something else added to their interactions with police officers.

You are being videotaped

The police chief of Rialto, California, William Farrar, helped oversee the outfitting of all 66 police officers with cameras for use while they are on duty.

When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better. And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.

This may sound strange, but in reality, it is scientific. The act of observation changes the observed, as first demonstrated on the quantum level by Werner Heisenberg. As reported in Scientific American, even the illusion of observation causes people, on a subconcious level, to behave better. Called the Observer Effect, it has dramatically changed life in Rialto.

With an 88% reduction in complaints filed against the police department, and a 60% reduction in police use of force, the city of Rialto has seen a savings in court costs, legal paperwork, and lawsuits. In addition, the video recorded evidence has improved conviction rates. As William Bratton, a former leader within both the New York and Los Angeles police departments, as said,

So much of what goes on in the field is ‘he-said-she-said,’ and the camera offers an objective perspective. Officers not familiar with the technology may see it as something harmful. But the irony is, officers actually tend to benefit. Very often, the officer’s version of events is the accurate version.

While police chief of Los Angeles, Mr. Bratton fought hard to add video cameras to patrol cars. The success of these cameras demonstrates how much benefit they can be. Body cameras take this to the next level, and in departments which have followed the same path as Rialto, the benefits have far outweighed the concerns so far. Even the ACLU, long an advocate for privacy is in agreement with this position.

As told by Peter Bibring, a senior lawyer with the A.C.L.U. of Southern California,

Cameras hold real promise for making it easier to resolve complaints against police. They do raise privacy concerns, but ones that can be addressed by strong privacy policies.

The problem we find with the lack of police accountability has been brought in to sharp focus with the continuing protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Across this nation, police, judges, and even politicians are finding themselves being held accountable for their actions. And the worst part is, when this accounting comes up, they are always surprised. ‘They had always acted that way, why was it wrong’ is the question they wonder. Repetition breeds familiarity breeds insensitivity. Putting them under the watchful, impartial electronic eye is the way to hold our officials accountable for their actions.

The hacktivist collective Anonymous, in the wake of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, has put out a call for a “Mike Brown’s Law,” to require the outfitting of all police officers in the US with recording devices. If you want to make a difference, if you want to see the police restored to the protectors of the public, sign the White House’s “We The People” petition page here, and let us make Mike Brown’s Law a reality.