When there’s a police shooting, there are always questions about what happened and why. Was the suspect armed? Did they appear to be going for a weapon? Did the officer panic? People want to know why a person is dead and whether the officer had no choice but to defend themselves.
Unfortunately, far too often, we don’t have much in the way of evidence. We have the officer’s word and little else without additional witnesses or a recording of the encounter.
Dash cameras work in some cases, but unless the shooting happens within the view of the camera, it doesn’t help.
Now, an Iowa police department is adding cameras to their officers’ weapons.
One Iowa police department is adding cameras to its handguns.
Hiawatha Police Chief Dennis Marks told KCRG that the new cameras will help ensure that a full recording will be made of any incident when officers pull their weapons.
Marks says body cameras can be obscured by arms or objects during confrontations, but an officer’s gun is out front where it isn’t likely to be blocked.
Now, when I first saw the headline, I wondered why the department wasn’t going to use body cameras. They seem to be much easier to source and can be more helpful as they record every encounter, not just the ones where a firearm is drawn or fired.
However, Marks is right that the camera can be blocked from catching everything by the officer’s arm or something else. The weapon cam isn’t likely to be blocked by anything that’s not also risking being shot.
Since body cameras have become common, we’ve seen it absolve officers of all sorts of wrongdoing. They seem to protect officers quite well.
Yet if something important gets blocked from view, the original problem remains. Namely, just what happened?
Between the two cameras, we’re likely to see everything that happened and can tell definitively if the shoot is good or not.
At least, that’s the theory.
Of course, in practice, things are likely to be different. There will probably still be cases where we don’t have the whole story for whatever reason, mostly because no device is omnipotent. No one can see everything in all instances except for the Almighty, and He isn’t typically testifying on these matters.
What we are likely to see is fewer such cases. After all, when there’s more data, it’s easier to tell what happened and not rely on eyewitness testimony from potentially biased sources. Instead, you get objective, unbiased video that tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Video may not be perfect, but it never lies.
That’s a good thing when trying to absolve an officer following a shooting. It’s also a good thing because it means the bad cops know they can’t get away with some of their crap anymore, which makes such cameras a win for everyone. I hope this is just one of many police departments that adopt such measures going forward.