Though there are still impediments related to deploying body-worn cameras on all of Pittsburgh’s patrol officers, the one that is most vexing is the state’s Right-to-Know law.
This was one of the points that came out of the Balancing Safety, Justice and Privacy seminar hosted by Duquesne University’s Cyril Wecht Institute for Forensic Science and Law on Jan. 27.
About 100 individuals, mostly students, attended the presentations and panel discussion covering various issues raised by police wearing cameras.
Duquesne Law Professor John Rago summarized these in his opening, noting that for him, body cameras are about collecting evidence for use at trial, and a means to help restore confidence in the legal system and in police officers in the wake of police-involved shootings.
“They are not designed to monitor police behavior—that is a byproduct,” he said.
Rago then showed three examples of incidents captured by dashboard and body-worn cameras where police officers shot a suspect. The first, an Oklahoma officer killed a suspect in a car after stopping it for an expired tag. He was not charged despite violating protocol and escalating the situation. The second recording was of a Pennsylvania officer who shot an intoxicated individual who went to the wrong house trying to go home. She was charged with manslaughter. The last recording, from Texas, showed officers on a domestic call doing everything correctly—getting children out of the house, backing away from the individual with a knife, going outside before he came at them with a gun.