All Of This Must Be On Camera, Right?

No. Most individuals have interactions with police officers that result in arrest believe that everything that happened prior to the arrest was captured on video. That is an incorrect assumption. Depending on the arresting agency, there might not be any video at all. Most video associated with an OWI arrest will reflect evidence of the reason for the stop, the administration of field sobriety and the arrest which comes from the in car camera (if the officer has one). In cases of arrests made by the Lafayette Police Department, there will likely be video from the room where implied consent notices are given relative to the suspension of drivers licenses and the breath tests.

What about bodycams? Don’t count on it. In the event that there is bodycam video, it generally worthless anyway. Why is that?

Think about it. Unlike the cameras mounted in a police unit where the action is totally controlled by the officer, the bodycam has to deal with an ever-changing dynamic in the field. Officers come to the scene and leave. They talk among themselves. They move their heads one way, their bodies another. They are running, walking and moving all the while the bodycam is likely pointing in another direction. The result is a disjointed stream of confusion and conduct that is rarely of any utility in the defense of an OWI case.

What happened to the big push for officer accountability with the mandate of many jurisdictions requiring the use of bodycams for officers? According to a recent article by the New York Times it turns out even if there was a bodycam in use, it had little effect on officer behavior anyway. See article here.  The 18-month study of more than 2,000 police officers in Washington found that officers equipped with cameras used force and prompted civilian complaints at about the same rate as those who did not have them.

Worse yet, there are some officers who do not use them even when policy requires it, or use them selectively. We have seen instances where officers: leave the camera charging at the station; turn the cameras on after critical action has occurred; point the camera in one direction while speaking about what they are seeing with their eyes pointing in another; and, turning cameras off when the discussion with other officers starts getting into arrest analysis and post-mortem.

So if the expectation is that everything that happened on the night of an unfortunate arrest is recorded for playback on demand, sorry.