Getting police body cameras right

You don’t have to think for very long to recognize that police body cameras are not a panacea for our criminal justice system (though I strongly suspect benefits outweigh costs), but this is a really useful, thoughtful article examining the difficulties and unconsidered costs involved in implementing such a system:

The temptation of technology as an accountability tool is not new, but accountability is not done by technology. Accountability is achieved by people and systems using tools like technology as part of their bureaucratic processes.There is effectively a global consensus that body cameras are a good thing to have because everyone has a different idea of what they’re agreeing to, a different model of appropriate bureaucracy. The bureaucratic and political battles over policies of use, access, and retention are not yet resolved, and they are significant. Who gets to see the footage, and in what circumstances, will matter. The features and capabilities of the technology matter. What happens when the camera reveals more about what was in the officer’s scope than what they could physically see at the time, especially at night? Or when cameras get additional features, like heat sensors? Even on basic practical questions, such as whether and when officers or the public should see the footage, there is no consensus.

Everyone is imagining what should be done when a citizen is shot dead by a member of the police, but few are focused on how footage might impact accountability or shift power dynamics in more routine encounters. [emphasis mine] For example, prosecutors might rely on the existence of footage, and a suspect’s ignorance of exactly what is captured, to obtain plea bargains more efficiently. Already,countless people agree to a plea bargain for crimes they didn’t commit because they don’t feel confident that they can prove their innocence, regardless of how much our system is supposedly about proving guilt. What happens when they are threatened with video footage or facing video footage that may be cropped, presented out of context, or otherwise manipulated to make them look more culpable than they really are? Who is empowered or disempowered by body cameras and their footage depends very much on the bureaucratic goals of the people making decisions about their use.

And plenty more.  Though I would not say I’m convinced we shouldn’t use them, I do think a go-slow approach definitely makes sense so we can work out how to best implement such systems.

Photo of the day

I’ve never actually seen hot air balloons in person before, so I was super-excited that a hot air balloon festival came to Raleigh yesterday.  Here’s one of my favorites:

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Steven Greene

 

 

 

Quick hits (part II)

1) This was a terrific Fresh Air interview on how the government was instrumental in creating Black ghettos.  Our racial residential patterns are no historical accident or Black people choosing to live in their own places, but the result of intentional government policies designed to keep Blacks out of white neighborhoods.

2) Loved this interactive feature to find the equivalent in popularity for you name from various decades (e.g., in 1900’s I would have been “Joe.”)

3) Jason Furman on the importance and success of government programs that invest in families.

4) We need to let our young kids learn through play!

TWENTY years ago, kids in preschool, kindergarten and even first and second grade spent much of their time playing: building with blocks, drawing or creating imaginary worlds, in their own heads or with classmates. But increasingly, these activities are being abandoned for the teacher-led, didactic instruction typically used in higher grades. In many schools, formal education now starts at age 4 or 5. Without this early start, the thinking goes, kids risk falling behind in crucial subjects such as reading and math, and may never catch up.

The idea seems obvious: Starting sooner means learning more; the early bird catches the worm.

But a growing group of scientists, education researchers and educators say there is little evidence that this approach improves long-term achievement; in fact, it may have the opposite effect, potentially slowing emotional and cognitive development, causing unnecessary stress and perhaps even souring kids’ desire to learn…

Over the past 20 years, scientists have come to understand much more about how children learn. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent his career studying how the human brain develops from birth through adolescence; he says most kids younger than 7 or 8 are better suited for active exploration than didactic explanation. “The trouble with over-structuring is that it discourages exploration,” he says.

5) Fascinating Slate piece on the origins of race-based slavery (had never really thought about the fact that slavery existed long before, but was not necessarily based on race).

6) How some men (but not women) fake an 80 hour work-week.

7) Speaking of which, one of the reasons I so loved Mad Men was because it was such a great exploration of the role of gender in the workplace.

8) Let’s keep the gender theme rolling… a couple good links from a commenter about rape, nudity, etc., on Game of Thrones.

9) USA Today editorial on the wrongness of Chipotle’s anti-GMO policy.

10) Surprise, surprise, the Patriot Act is not actually helping the FBI catch terrorists.

11) When it comes to social issues, liberals have caught up with conservatives.

12) Not only do we need better train infrastructure, we need the War on Drugs to not blatantly and horribly violate people’s rights while they are riding trains.  Seriously, the War on Drugs just has so much more harm than good that I think only those truly ignorant of what is going on can support it.  Or fascists.

13) Yes, there was huge fraud in political science, but because of how the scientific method works, it was actually caught out pretty quickly.  And a handy chart on how to spot bad science.

14) Okay, so this Slate piece freaked me out about ticks pretty good.  Actually think I am going to spray my kids’ shoes and socks as a result.

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