(FOX 11) If you haven't noticed, we live in a video age -- from the Boston bombing to the West, Texas explosion to the latest TMZ shot of some pant-less celebrity. If it happens, we have to see it on video and we expect to see it on video -- and fast.
So it makes perfect sense that more and more organizations are saying, 'you know what? I don't want to have to rely on someone else's cell phone or surveillance to get what I need on camera. I'll just do it myself."
That brings me, in a bit of a hop skip and jump, to the Inland Empire, all the way to Rialto where the police chief is running a sort of video experiment. Half of his patrol cops wear miniature collar-mounted video cameras that can capture an entire shift's worth of video and audio, store it on a tiny hard drive, and upload it to a secure cloud for storage and review.
Claim that the cops brutalized you? Let's go the videotape. Cops say you resisted arrest? Let's go to the videotape.
In the first 12 months the Rialto cops have been wearing the little devices. Complaints against officers have plummeted, as have use of force incidents. As Chief Tony Farrar told us, "If you put a camera on people, they tend to behave in a more professional manner ... it's just human nature."
Farrar couldn't be happier with the results of his experiment and predicts more and more departments will go the video route.
The 20-year veteran I rode around with, Sgt Josh Lindsay, was skeptical at first but he was quickly convinced, thinking the cameras protect him from false accusations and protect the public as well. "Officers are essentially on their best behavior. And if you see the camera pointed at you, chances are the average suspect or even citizen will be too."
It's "the wave of the future," Lindsay added.
Cost is an issue, though. The little units, with battery and the accessories, are about $1,200 dollars each. For a relatively small department like Rialto -- with about 50 of them so far -- it's do-able. Try to outfit the whole Los Angeles Police or the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and then we're talking about a serious budget item.
But as some have already figured out, that may be a prudent investment when it compares to the cost of investigating, trying, settling, and maybe even losing complaint-related lawsuits.
For example, what if the LAPD cops chasing Rodney King had recorded the entire incident from start to finish? Would that have substantiated their claims that he was out of control and combative, or would it have shown excessive force? It would've certainly been more valuable than George Holliday's grainy shaky partial home video shot from the window of his apartment across the freeway.
What about more recently: the cops that are on trial for killing the killing of the homeless man, Kelly Thomas, in Fullerton. We have audio on that one, matched, sort of to surveillance video. Full coverage, audio and video would again be helpful.
It's happening -- it's called progress.