Patterico's Pontifications

2/17/2008

Jack is Back

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 10:59 am

Jack Dunphy is back in the pages of the L.A. Times, explaining why cameras in police cars won’t be a cure-all . . . unless we can do away with bean-counters and nitpicky rule enforcers:

[M]any of us who work in the department are skeptical about how these video images will be used. And we have good reason to be. Consider: A recent internal audit of arrest reports concluded that a large number were unsatisfactory because they did not properly document whether Miranda warnings were given to suspects. On its surface, the finding suggested a dire problem. But a closer look at the audit revealed that there was hardly a problem at all. Department policy dictates that when a suspect under arrest has not been advised of his Miranda rights, the words “not admonished” must be written in a designated space on the arrest report. Some officers, however, used different words — such as “not advised” and “not given” — to report the same thing.

No matter, said the auditors. Because these officers didn’t use the required language, they had to complete follow-up reports spelling out what any fool could have seen was clearly meant in their original reports.

Now imagine the effect on police officers if this kind of obsessive punctiliousness were applied to the images captured by the video cameras installed in their patrol cars.

Read it all, and rejoice at Jack’s return, however temporary, to the pages of The Times.

11 Responses to “Jack is Back”

  1. so, because some officers don’t use the required language in their reports, this is reason not to videotape interactions with citizens? wouldn’t it be easier to either change or enforce the rule regarding prescribed language in police reports, or would this be noncontributory to the overall agenda?

    assistant devil's advocate (6b94e8)

  2. That’s not the point, ADA. The point is that auditors put form over substance and that LAPD policing will suffer if the videotape is used to criticize each step of a patrolman’s day. Dunphy is attacking the mentality of form over substance oversight.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  3. “Dunphy is attacking the mentality of form over substance oversight.”

    Looks like that problem stays whether you have cameras or not. Better fix it, else its an argument against any oversight.

    stef (87fe55)

  4. ADA is right – Dunphy’s argument is pretty thin.

    We won’t be going over every step of a policemen’s day. Defense attorneys and plaintiff’s attorneys will be going over arrests. It will cost some convictions and it will cost some settlement money.

    Technologically, we could put a video camera in the officer’s lapel. A 8gb SD card would last a shift. It would solve Dunphy’s paperwork issue – just watch what the officer actually said to the arrestee – no forms needed.

    Both of these are more interesting to debate than Dunphy’s concern over paperwork perfection.

    TomHynes (6c3e12)

  5. I have a simpler solution to the “problem” of officer’s not using the policy-specified language on arrest reports: revise the policy.

    It may seem silly to complain about having to write the word “admonished” in place of, say, “given,” but anyone whose job has ever involved filling out multiple versions of the same form repeatedly over the course of a day can tell you that those five extra letters add up.

    I’d hate to be in a position where I couldn’t effectively use a firearm because of writer’s cramp.

    McGehee (25adee)

  6. Sounds like the officers need some spelling practice.

    Maybe just require officers to get an education?

    No that won’t work, educated folks don’t exhibit the attitude of bustin a cap or breakin down doors to serve a warrant to a house full of kids in the middle of the night. That won’t work at all.

    I know, make the question multiple choice! No wrong answers of course, but could lengthen the amount of time required filling out the form.

    All served with a :)

    TC (1cf350)

  7. I think Dunphy’s point is that the people so anal they’ll ding an officer for writing “not given” instead of “not admonished” are likely to abuse access to second-by-second recordings of the officer’s actions.

    Rob Crawford (04f50f)

  8. Well said.

    DRJ (3eda28)

  9. I’d rather have cameras on police firearms. Actually, there’s nothing preventing that as a requirement on all firearms.

    Al (b624ac)

  10. I agree Rob. There probably is a very real fear that the Monday morning quarterbacks would not understand what they were seeing if they can’t even realize that “not given” is the same as “not admonished”.
    Film can not tell the entire story, voice tones, inflections and small movements by a supsect not readily visible to the camera might change the entire context of what an Officer is seen to do. On film it could look unjustified, in person it could be entirely justified, necessary and logical.
    Yet another thing to explain to anal people who don’t work or know the street, but have read the “book”.

    Labcatcher (afe438)


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