Miami-Dade Police Union Boss Claims Body Cams Place Cops Lives at Risk
Already coping with the never-ending plethora of lurking dangers that keep cops fearing for their lives, the president of the Miami-Dade Police union is outraged that the county mayor now wants cops to start wearing body cams, a move he says “can cost that officer his or her life.”
John Rivera, president the Police Benevolent Association, also said the introduction of body-mounted cameras “will distract officers from their duties, and hamper their ability to act and react in dangerous situations.”
If anything, the cameras would hamper their ability to write fabricated police reports, not to mention physically abuse citizens.
After all, the Miami-Dade Police Department not only arrested me for recording in 2012 as well as arrested another man for recording earlier this year, but also attacked a 14-year-old boy carrying a puppy on a beach, placing him in a chokehold (caught on video), after the teen gave them “dehumanizing stares.”
And that, of course, is the exact reason why Rivera is trying to block the introduction of body-mounted cameras into the largest law enforcement agency in the Southeast United States.
He could do without the accountability.
Ironically, even Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Nancy Perez, who arrested me for recording, then had my footage deleted, only for me to recover it – and then was caught lying on the witness stand – told the media that she was all for the cameras.
A police spokeswoman tells the Miami Herald that the force actually wants the cameras because they’re concerned that footage recorded by citizens with their cellphones don’t always tell the full story.
“You see the public is requesting for all police to be recorded. They’re always recording them with their phones,” said Major Nancy Perez. “This gives police a chance to record the public.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez brought up the subject last week after the nation’s attention turned to Ferguson, where protesters clashed with police for two weeks after a cop shot an unarmed man in an incident not caught on camera, leaving actual eye witnesses reports contradicting reports from mythical eye witnesses conjured by police.
According to the Miami Herald:
In the wake of national outrage over alleged police misconduct in Ferguson, Mo., Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Thursday vowed to make “body cameras” mandatory for all county patrol officers.
His proposed budget calls for purchasing 500 of the mini cameras, enough to outfit about half of Miami-Dade’s patrol force. Made by Taser, they’re small enough to snap onto a pair of glasses or a hat in order to record everything an officer sees.
“I want a camera on every police officer,” Gimenez told the audience at a budget town hall meeting in Little Haiti.
Gimenez’s strong words put Miami-Dade, one of the largest local governments in the country, on the forefront of a national debate over police cameras in the wake of the Ferguson shooting of an unarmed teenager by an officer. Days of unrest followed, with protestors alleging homicide and authorities saying they didn’t yet have enough evidence to pass judgement. Civil-liberties activists have raised concerns about a police force essentially filming every civilian they come in contact with.
Referring to Ferguson, Gimenez told an audience of about 50 people that “I think if there had been a camera, a lot of what happened could have been avoided.” Later, he added: “Police officers, everyone once in a while may step out of line. But there also are a lot of frivolous allegations against them.”
An audience of 50? No wonder politicians down here act as if nobody is watching them.
Gimenez has previously clashed with Rivera when he announced possible layoffs within the department to meet budget cuts, leading Rivera to turn to scare tactics on the people, coming out on television (video above) to state that every citizen should buy a gun because cops will no longer be around to keep them safe – as if they don’t already show up to a crime scene after it has taken place, which doesn’t exactly weigh into the safety factor.
According to the Miami Herald:
Two of the biggest foes in Miami-Dade’s budget battle, Mayor Carlos Gimenez and police union chief John Rivera, met Tuesday on neutral territory.The morning sit-down happened in a private office at the Biltmore hotel in Coral Gables, after weeks of the men and their surrogates lambasting each other over police funding and contract talks.
“I need to move on,” Gimenez said during a brief interview in a Biltmore hallway before the 10:30 a.m. meeting. “I need to save some jobs.” Leaving the meeting about an hour later, Gimenez said: “Problem solved? No. But it was a good, frank discussion.”
Rivera’s comments before the meeting weren’t warm. “My members have strictly instructed me: No more concessions,” he said.
In an email afterwards, Rivera, president of the Police Benevolent Association, wrote: “Pretty much no different than before I walked in.”
The two did not bring aides into the closed-door meeting in the office of Biltmore president Gene Prescott. Rodney Barreto, a partner in a top local lobbying firm who is on friendly terms with both men, brokered the meeting and sat in during the discussion, Barreto said.
“I wouldn’t say it was really tense. But there were a few moments there,” Barreto said. “The reality is John hasn’t had a working relationship with this mayor.”
When Gimenez’s staff first proposed about 450 job cuts in the county police department, Rivera told the media Miami-Dade residents may need firearms to protect themselves. Earlier this month, a Gimenez spokesman accused Rivera of “flat-out lying” regarding the mayor’s attempts to negotiate with the union.
Rivera had objected to a former PBA lawyer serving as the county’s negotiator, and recently Gimenez said he would tap a new representative if it would jump-start talks.
Gimenez’s negotiating team this week dropped demands that county unions extend concessions set to expire later this year, and recently announced he had found enough revenue to bring police-job cuts downto about 150, including civilian posts.
Now he’s pressing unions to accept less generous health benefits in order to cut costs and prevent any job reductions in police.
I’ve never been a big fan of local politicians, but I can respect a mayor who would like to reduce the number officers while increasing the number of cameras. I would like to see that done in departments across the United States.
Perhaps Gimenez, a former firefighter, is different than his predecessors, who generally leave the office in shame, including the one he replaced, Carlos Alvarez, a former Miami-Dade Police Director who was removed from office in one of the largest municipality recalls in United States history, which should tell you a little about the integrity of that department.
But now Rivera’s grievance, which was not published in its entirety in the Miami Herald, has delayed the introduction of cameras for at least a couple of weeks.
In its two-page grievance, the Miami-Dade police union cited the distraction caused by officers having to activate the camera before approaching a traffic stop or potential arrest. “As anyone with knowledge of police training and tactics knows, if an officer hesitates for even a second in a life threatening situation, it can cost that officer his or her life, and/or put the lives of others at risk,” the complaint reads. It also cites footage potentially revealing the identify of undercover officers.
Miami-Dade has 10 days to formally respond to the complaint. If the two sides can’t reach an agreement, the matter would end up in arbitration or Florida’s labor-dispute system. The conflict comes as Gimenez and union leaders are in a public clash over the 2015 budget, which calls for cutting about 150 police jobs. Gimenez wants county unions to accept less-generous healthcare plans in order to cut expenses, which he says will mean no police staffing cuts.
UPDATE: There has been a lot of talk lately about whether the introduction of body cams to police departments can curb police aggression with many people pointing to the study conducted out of the Rialto Police Department in California as a prime example that they do reduce complaints of excessive force.
However, as PINAC pointed out earlier this year, there is also the Albuquerque Police Department that introduced body cams to officers in 2010, only to see police increase aggression against citizens to the point where the department was investigated by the U.S Department of Justice for killing so many citizens.
The determination was that education and leadership play a strong role in curbing violent incidents, probably even more so than cameras, even though every police officer in the country should be required to wear them.
A recent study confirmed the importance of higher education to decrease use of force incidents.
Research conducted by Jason Rydberg and Dr. William Terrill from Michigan State University provides evidence that having a college degree significantly reduces the likelihood that officers will use force as their first option to gain compliance. The study also discovered evidence of educated officers demonstrating greater levels of creativity and problem-solving skills.
Washington Post columnist Radley Balko penned a column earlier this month where he also provides more examples of body cams not having the desired effect if there is not proper oversight.
More recently, on Aug. 11, New Orleans police officer Lisa Lewis claims she was engaged in a struggle with motorist Armond Bennett just before she shot him in the head. New Orleans officers are outfitted with cameras, but there’s no video to verify Lewis’s version of events because she says turned her camera off just before the incident. NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas called this a “snafu.” One could understand if a critic were to opt for another word, like coverup.
So in addition to making these videos public record, accessible through public records requests, we also need to ensure that police agencies implement rules requiring officers to actually use the cameras, enforce those rules by disciplining officers when they don’t and ensure that the officers, the agencies that employ them, and prosecutors all take care to preserve footage, even if the footage reflects poorly on officers.
One policy that would go a long way toward achieving those three objectives is what defense attorney Scott Greenfield calls the missing video presumption. Currently, the courts generally treat important video that goes missing as a harmless mistake. They assume no ill will on the part of police. If you discover that the police were or should have been recording an encounter that would vindicate you of criminal charges or prove that the police violated your rights, and that video goes missing, you’re simply out of luck.
Under the missing video presumption, if under the policy agency’s police there should have been video and there isn’t, then the courts will assume that the video corroborates the party opposing the police, be it a criminal defendant or the plaintiff in a civil rights lawsuit. The state could still get over the presumption by presenting other evidence, such as witnesses, medical reports, and so on. But if it’s the police officer’s word against his antagonist’s, there should be video to validate one side or the other, and that video mysteriously goes missing while in police custody, the police should have to pay a penalty in court. Otherwise, there’s just too strong an incentive for vindicating video to be leaked and for incriminating video to disappear.