I’m generally in favor of body cams, but there is one very serious concern that I have, and I’ll explain it in the form of a confession. Here goes:
I’m a good employee. I like to think that I’m a very good employee. However, I can point to a dozen of so incidents in my career where something that I did would have led to my immediate termination at my place of employment. None of these incidents was indicative of who or how I am, and they were all “one offs,” and I look back on them with shame now, and I never repeated them, and all that. That’s all true. Regardless, if I’d been caught, I’d have been justifiably fired.
Here’s one: One time, while I was an on-the-road computer repair technician — and a darned good one! — I was returning from a job, when I was overcome by fatigue and had to pull over and rest.
I was overcome with fatigue because I had stayed out the previous evening and over-indulged in activities in which one should not over-indulge. Only beer, folks… don’t let your imagination take you too far! At that point, my company’s practice (a common one) was to charge our customers “portal-to-portal,” which means that the customer whose computer I fixed paid both for my drive time to their location and also for my drive time to the location of my next customer, or back to the office.
On this particular return trip, I was returning to the office, so the only customer being charged with my need to rest on the way back to the office was the one whose computer I’d just fixed. When I’d recovered after a half-hour nap or so, I returned to the office and explained my lateness by claiming to have been caught in traffic. I never did it again, and am ashamed of it to this day.
If my boss had known what I’d done, I’d have been, justifiably, fired. That was my most egregious flouting of my employer’s rules, but I’ve done others, including calling in sick when I wasn’t, and the like.
Everyone, including cops, has done something like this. Imagine if you had to put up with every moment of your work day coming under scrutiny. How well would you do on your films? Would you be a the perfect employee? Remember, each thing that is caught may not necessarily lead to your dismissal, but it could justify, say, a bad review leading to a diminished raise, or no raise at all.
These things could cost lots lots of employees — not just the cops — lots of money, or lots of jobs.
Now you and I who are not policemen would have some serious difficulties with such body cams. Our jobs have their stresses, and we come home many, many nights bone tired and ready only to collapse into bed from stress and fatigue.
How about cops? Don’t forget: their jobs are wall-to-wall stress! Would body cams require cops to be perfect in every aspect of every interaction they ever have with anyone in the public? If so, then you might as well fire every cop in every police force right now. Even the very best, the least racist, the nicest, most honest, most integrity-filled of all cops wouldn’t be able to live up to that standard.
I’ve been in favor of body cams, but this one just might be a deal-breaker.
One more quick thing. Body cams are a great idea, but they are technology, and I’m an expert in many, many different aspects of many different technologies. I know technology … at a lot of different levels. I know how wonderful — and how crashingly, stupidly, ridiculously, pathetically, stupidly imperfect — it can be.
What if a body cam catches a cop saying the perfectly good word: “snigger,” and isn’t sensitive enough to catch the “s”? You and I both know what happens then. Read the page here, if you’re really wondering.