2020 has not been a great year to be a police officer. Not only have you been considered an essential worker, thus having to go out and deal with people during the worst of the pandemic, but then the actions of a small handful of police officers led to the biggest outpouring of anti-police sentiment I’ve ever seen.
However, there are things you need to do if you’re a police officer in such an environment. First and foremost, you need to make damn sure you do everything by the book. If anything, you need to be overly restrained in your use of force because in an era when everyone has a cell phone with a camera.
It also means that if your department has body cams, you damn sure need to use them to keep yourself out of hot water.
For a police officer in the Casey Goodson case, failing to do so might just cost him his job.
Police in Columbus, Ohio, fatally shot an unarmed Black man early Tuesday but did not have their body cameras turned on during the incident, leading the mayor to call for the removal of the officer who opened fire.
Mayor Andrew Ginther said he was greatly disturbed by the fact that the cameras were not recording the incident and called it “unacceptable” on the part of the officers involved.
“So let me be clear, if you’re not going to turn on your body-worn camera, you cannot serve and protect the people of Columbus,” Ginther said. “I have asked Chief Quinlan to remove the officer involved of duty and turn in his badge and gun.”
The shooting happened in the 1000 block of Oberlin Drive and occurred more than two weeks after law enforcement fatally shot 23-year-old Black man Casey Goodson as he entered his grandmother’s home. The investigation into his death, which drew national headlines, is ongoing.
Two officers in separate cars responded to a disturbance call about a running vehicle on Tuesday at around 1:30 a.m., where they found the 47-year-old man in the garage.
Neither responding officer activated their body-worn cameras until immediately after the shooting, but because of a 60-second “look back” function, the shooting was captured on video, police said.
So, probably not the best move for either officer. I’d think that turning on your body cam would become an automatic upon existing your vehicle, but apparently not.
Regardless, because they failed to, the mayor wants the officer’s badge.
I understand that. However, the officer knew about the “look back” feature and turned the cam on just after the shooting, knowing it would be recorded, so while this is likely grounds for disciplinary action, I’m not sure it warrants termination in and of itself.
After all, it’s clear that he wasn’t necessarily trying to hide his actions during the shooting. Not if he did indeed know about the “look back” feature, anyway. He knew it would be recorded and there would still be a record of his actions.
Now, that’s not to say any wrongdoing from the shooting shouldn’t be plenty to get him fired in the first place. That’s obvious in my mind. I’m just not sure the mayor is right to call for his termination over this.
Then again, as I noted previously, I’d think turning on the body cam upon exiting the vehicle should be automatic. Failing to do so is often suggestive of trying to hide one’s activities, so I don’t know.
Much of it really has to do with what the policies on the books say.
Of course, little of that matters. The police chief answers to the mayor, so he’s likely to do what the mayor says so long as Ohio’s employment laws don’t specifically prevent him from doing so. It doesn’t really matter all that much whether the firing is warranted or not in such a case.
It looks like right or wrong, the officer is going to be out of a job before the investigation into the shooting is complete.