Moon­light­ing po­lice leav­ing body cam­eras at home for 2nd jobs

Crit­ics: Re­quired all times cops armed

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY JOHN SEEWER

When po­lice of­fi­cers in Amer­ica’s cities put on their uni­forms and grab their weapons be­fore moon­light­ing in se­cu­rity jobs at night­clubs, hos­pi­tals and ball­parks, there’s one piece of equip­ment they of­ten leave be­hind — their body cam­era.

That’s be­cause most po­lice agen­cies that make the cam­eras manda­tory for pa­trol shifts don’t re­quire or won’t al­low body cam­eras for off-duty of­fi­cers even if they’re work­ing in uni­form, leav­ing a hole in poli­cies de­signed to in­crease over­sight and re­store con­fi­dence in law en­force­ment.

Po­lice depart­ments con­tend that they have only a lim­ited num­ber of body cam­eras or that there are too many lo­gis­ti­cal hur­dles and costs in­volved.

But that ar­gu­ment doesn’t sit well with those who say it shouldn’t mat­ter whether an of­fi­cer is on pa­trol or moon­light­ing at a shop­ping mall.

“As long as they have real bul­lets, they need to have the body cam­eras,” said John Bar­nett, a civil rights leader in Char­lotte, North Carolina, where shoot­ings in­volv­ing po­lice have put use of the cam­eras un­der scru­tiny.

An As­so­ci­ated Press sur­vey of the 20 big­gest U.S. cities found that nearly all have of­fi­cers wear­ing or test­ing body cam­eras, but that only five — Hous­ton, Fort Worth and San An­to­nio, Texas; and San Fran­cisco and San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia — have rules re­quir­ing them for uni­formed of­fi­cers work­ing out­side their reg­u­lar hours.

The depart­ments that have body cam­eras or are test­ing them, but do not re­quire moon­light­ing of­fi­cers to wear them, are New York City, Los An­ge­les, Chicago, Philadel­phia, Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas, Colum­bus, Ohio, and Char­lotte, North Carolina. Den­ver also has them and is plan­ning to add cam­eras for off-duty work.

“There shouldn’t be a dis­tinc­tion,” said Lt. Elle Wash­burn, who over­sees San Jose’s body cam­era pro­gram. “You’re still in uni­form, still have pow­ers of ar­rest.”

Just about ev­ery po­lice agency makes it clear that of­fi­cers work­ing in uni­form still rep­re­sent the de­part­ment and are sub­ject to po­lice rules even when they’re off duty and paid by some­one else.

Yet trou­ble can hap­pen any­where and any­time, and when it does, there’s lit­tle dif­fer­ence be­tween an on-duty and off-duty of­fi­cer.

Within the past three years, there have been shoot­ings — some fa­tal — in­volv­ing moon­light­ing of­fi­cers in Mis­souri, North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio and In­di­ana, but the over­all num­ber isn’t known be­cause depart­ments don’t keep those sta­tis­tics.

In Louisiana, a moon­light­ing of­fi­cer who wasn’t wear­ing a body cam­era was sen­tenced in March to 40 years in prison for man­slaugh­ter in the fa­tal shoot­ing of a 6-year-old boy fol­low­ing a car chase.

A key piece of ev­i­dence came from an on-duty of­fi­cer’s body cam­era show­ing the boy’s fa­ther had his hands raised and stick­ing out his win­dow as the moon­light­ing of­fi­cer and a former of­fi­cer both work­ing as deputy city mar­shals col­lec­tively fired 18 shots. Once the shoot­ing stopped, the footage showed blood on the door and an of­fi­cer’s real­iza­tion the boy was in the pas­sen­ger’s seat.

Min­neapo­lis and At­lanta are among the cities re­quir­ing the cam­eras for off­duty work, and some oth­ers are mov­ing that way, in­clud­ing Cincin­nati, which is spend­ing about $1.2 mil­lion on 350 cam­eras and equip­ment so all of­fi­cers will have one and be able to use them on sec­ondary jobs. (It’s now op­tional.)

Moon­light­ing of­fi­cers with­out the cam­eras to back them up can be more vul­ner­a­ble to false al­le­ga­tions, said Cincin­nati po­lice Capt. Doug Wies­man. And it might be tough to ex­plain why an off­duty of­fi­cer who used deadly force didn’t have a cam­era, he said.

“It’s a mis­take not to have them,” Capt. Wies­man said. “Your of­fi­cers are wear­ing that uni­form. Who cares who’s pay­ing them?”

But most places turn off the cam­eras when it comes to the mil­lions of hours of­fi­cers put in work for pri­vate em­ploy­ers — a wide­spread prac­tice but not one tracked in de­tail.


San Fran­cisco is one of five depart­ments among those in the 20 big­gest U.S. cities re­quir­ing cam­eras for uni­formed of­fi­cers when work­ing out­side their reg­u­lar hours.

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