By Joel Mathis (Philly Mag)
Well-done, Commissioner Ramsey.
No, that’s not patronizing or sarcastic. I’m genuinely excited that the commissioner has announced his support for outfitting Philadelphia Police officers with so-called “body cameras” — like the dash cams attached to police cars, only attached to the officers themselves.
The cameras can only aid the cause of justice in Philadelphia. They’ll aid police, backing up their descriptions of crimes and crime scenes that they witness, giving prosecutors and juries confidence that they’re getting the full story. (See the Wolfcon commercial above, compiled of clips officers apparently believed help back their stories.) But they might also restrain the worst impulses of the department’s rogue officers: In Rialto, California, use of force fell by 60 percent — and citizen complaints by 88 percent — in the first year. That’s astonishing.
And that’s why Ramsey wants to start a pilot program, testing the cameras, by year’s end.
“I think it’s the way to go,” he told the Inquirer. “I think it’s something that’s long overdue in our department.”
Agreed. So a round of applause to the commissioner for taking a step that could lead to meaningful, productive change, that could, in turn, lead more Philadelphians to genuinely trust their police department. A little accountability can go a long way.
That said, slapping cameras on cops is just the beginning of getting to that accountability. There are two steps that should probably accompany the pilot program.