Police footage on YouTube has law enforcement worried

Monday , May 11, 2015 - 2:18 PM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

OGDEN – Protests against police brutality and use of deadly force are occurring all over the nation. The public has called for reform in police tactics. Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson and Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore led to public demanded increase in officers wearing body cameras.

The footage captured on these cameras are now leading to an entirely new issue, privacy. YouTube users have flooded the site with videos of police incidents. Now law enforcement uses the social media tool to put their own body camera footage on the web.

Lieutenant Susan Poulsen with the Davis County Sheriff’s office voices a concern of privacy for residents captured on film.

“We deal with people at their worst moments on the worst day of their life,” Poulsen said. “It becomes a privacy issue when those videos go online for everyone to see.”

Public demand for police to release body camera footage comes at a price for the public, believes Polusen, who said not many people would want their own arrest published on the internet forever.

Poulsen also discussed the positive effects of the YouTube videos increasing government transparency. “(The videos) allow the public to see a perspective that they normally are not privy to,” Poulsen said.

She believes the videos will most often show good officers doing the right thing. Video evidence most often exonerates officers in Davis County.

Resident complaints about officers tend to decrease significantly when the police inform the individual video of the incident exists. Poulsen attributes the camera footage as one of the best ways to deescalate situations.

“I’m kind of on the fence,” Poulsen said. “The more we upload the more the public seems to be aware of the police, but that may not necessarily increase their trust (in law enforcement).”

Matthew Gwynn, Public Information Officer for Roy Police Department, advised “any person going to YouTube to watch a video needs to remain objective.”

Gwynn acknowledges footage from police body cameras or bystanders can only show one viewpoint of the incident.

“(The video) doesn’t always record the entire incident from beginning to end, so a lot of times some very important information is missing.”

Gwynn believes the transparency effects of the videos, especially accessible on YouTube, benefits police relations with the community. He feels, however, in the age of instant gratification, the public often wants an immediate release of footage.

“People struggle with having to wait, during the time the investigation is still open,” Gwynn said. “When the police don’t immediately release the footage people think it’s because we’re hiding something.”

Officers are now trained to understand they are always on camera. Yet, Davis County law enforcement currently only has a few agencies using body cameras.

“The technology just isn’t there yet,” Poulsen said. “There are still a lot of questions about storage, how long it’s on and recording, and editing issues.”

Law enforcement is moving to increase the upload of police footage.

“Now the public is seeing the hard things we in law enforcement are used to dealing with,” said Poulsen.

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