Is Video Footage Enough to Prove Police Brutality?

Posted On: June 8th, 2015 by Bradley J. Groene

Buzz surrounding police body cameras has steadily grown over the past year, especially in light of growing allegations of police brutality against unarmed citizens. The cameras are touted as a panacea against police misconduct and are supposed hold police accountable for inappropriate and sometimes violent actions. Every week, a new police department adds cameras, and the trend shows no sign of stopping.

Despite this, it seems as though police are still getting off scot-free in some brutality cases. Even in the event that the whole scene was caught on film, some officers are not charged. Remember the Eric Garner case? Despite full video footage of police using a chokehold against an unarmed man, the grand jury couldn’t even find enough evidence to indict the offending police officer.

As this event reveals, video footage alone is not convict. The criminal justice system is set up to trust the word of police. Their testimony is automatically given more credence than the word of a private citizen, especially a civilian accused of a crime. Without context and analysis, video footage of police brutality is useless. The jury needs to know what is happening and why police have taken certain actions in order to process the evidence and form an opinion. When this context is given by the officer accused (especially if the victim does not make a good impression on the stand, or worse, was killed and can’t tell his side of the story), the power is returned to law enforcement.

How Can Video Footage Be Used to Build a Police Brutality Case Then?

While we may have previously believed that police needed this level of authority, recent events have turned public opinion towards reform. This will help give more credibility to victims and video footage, but this alone is still not enough.

What we must do is bring more accountability into the criminal justice system as a whole. First, prosecutors must be encouraged to have a healthy skepticism toward the officers they work with, even if they have important working relationships. Second, we need to lessen the requirement of “malicious intent” for convicting on-duty officers of brutality. There needs to be a lower burden of proof investigating the state of mind of police, since this is very difficult to prove either way. Finally, we must increase awareness of the problem. The public needs to understand the severity of these issues, so that those on juries take allegations seriously and consider both sides of the story. Law enforcement needs to be made aware of other options and be trained on less devastating ways to take suspects into custody.

All of these reforms will take time, but we are starting to make progress here in Cincinnati and across the country. In the meantime, civilians should be encouraged to come forward and report these incidents, both with and without video footage, so that the problem is brought to light. The more we see these cases in court, the more judges and prosecutors learn how to deal with them fairly. If you have witnessed or been a victim of police brutality, call Cincinnati defense lawyer Brad Groene at (513) 338-1890 today. We will give you a free consultation on your case and give you an honest assessment of how we can help based on your evidence. Let us fight for your rights.