Finally A Little Bit Of Police Accountability In A Shooting

Clearly, the End of Days is upon us! A cop was fired for failing to turn on his uniform camera to record the events leading up to a fatal shooting:

An Albuquerque police officer who shot and killed a 19-year-old woman in April was fired from the police force on Monday for failing to follow an order to turn on his uniform camera during all citizen contacts, police said.

The officer, Jeremy Dear, had been under scrutiny because his uniform camera was not turned on during the April 21 incident in which he shot a woman who was stopped on suspicion of vehicle theft after he said she pointed a gun at him.

Police Chief Gorden Eden said in a statement the officer was fired for “insubordination and untruthfulness” over the uniform camera issue after an internal probe, but stopped short of linking the firing to the circumstances of the shooting itself.

Dear has not been charged in the incident.

I was discussing the idea of firing cops that fail to turn on their camera just a few days ago and here we are. I couldn’t be more pleased. Yes, a woman is dead and no, the officer is not being charged – but he is being held to a necessary standard.

Just to be clear here, there’s no particular reason to suspect it was an unjustified shooting. The woman, Mary Hawkes, had a history of criminal behavior and she had several drugs, including meth, in her system at the time of her death. Also, a gun was allegedly found near her body.

So this is not about a cop covering up a bad shooting, it’s about a cop with a history of turning off his camera before confrontations being strongly disciplined:

In January 2013, Dear had responded to a brawl occurring in town and had struck “(a 22-year-old suspect) several times in his facial area with a closed fist,” according to his description of the event. His camera was not on at the time, and his partner’s camera had captured the beginning of the fight and its aftermath.

In February 2013, a man was pulled over by Dear for speeding. The man later filed a complaint accusing Dear of using excessive force. The man alleged that Dear had pulled him out of his vehicle and kicked him in the genitals. Dear denied the accusations and claimed that the battery on his body camera died after he pulled the man over.

This is the kind of behavior that leads to Darren Wilson shooting an unarmed teen. If Wilson had had a camera recording the incident, it’s extremely likely that Michael Brown would still be alive and in jail awaiting his day in court. We know this is true because the police in Rialto, California performed a yearlong test and found that cameras reduced violent encounters by over 50%. 

In other words, when someone is watching the watchers, they behave better. On the flip side, civilian complaints against the police dropped by 88%. It seems cameras benefit the police even more than they do the public.

But this only works if the police use the cameras as intended. They can’t be on all the time since the batteries are not strong enough and the memory storage would become prohibitive. That means it’s up to the police to turn them on when they get out of their cars to deal with the public.

But keep in mind, there are a great many cops who really hate the idea of being recorded. Even after the Supreme Court upheld the public’s right to record the actions of the police, cops all over the country are constantly being caught harassing, even arresting, people that are completely innocent of any crime other than daring to point a cell phone camera at an officer. Clearly, there’s going to be cops that “forget” to turn on their cameras a lot.

This makes the firing of ex-officer Jeremy Dear so incredibly important. It sets the precedent that “accidentally” forgetting to turn the camera on will be met with harsh disciplinary measures.

Dear’s lawyer thinks that’s totally unfair:

Dear’s attorney, Thomas Grover, said his client was being unfairly made an example of as the first officer fired for not turning on a uniform camera in the wake of the Department of Justice findings on excessive force, released in April.

“If they fire every officer who doesn’t turn on his uniform camera, they won’t have anyone left on the department,” Grover said. “I think the department is struggling to get the lapel camera policy in place and set an example of him to show the Department of Justice they are doing something.”

You’re darn right Dear is an example. He’s an example to the other cops that “forgetting” to turn on their camera won’t be tolerated. And if a lot of cops end up getting fired for deliberately concealing their actions, then that just tells us that they shouldn’t have been in law enforcement in the first place.

If your argument is that holding the police accountability for their actions is too much of a burden, then you’ve completely misunderstood the concept of “Protect and Serve.”