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Kuntz: Beware of cop cameras

BY KATIE KUNTZ | OCTOBER 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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The University of Iowa has now equipped all its police officers with small video cameras to use during any interaction with civilians.

Lucy Wiederholt, an associate director of the UI police, said the cameras are used as objective observers and are for the benefit of both officers and civilians during interactions.

Though the intentions may be good, even with video cameras, there are still two sides to every story. It is unclear what the rules for these cameras are, and, according to Wiederholt, the policies are not public record.

People must call for legal regulations to protect themselves where the changes in police policy and technology are not.

For example, the way of saying the Miranda rights needs to be updated. Perhaps UI police should rephrase it: “Anything you say — or anything I record on this camera clipped to my shirt — may be used against you in the court of law.”

Also, the police must not be allowed to edit the film. In the event that both footage and police testimony are admissible in court, testimony should be limited to the context needed to prove the alleged crime. If testimony goes beyond the scope of the footage, people are left susceptible to police manipulation.  

However, there are not clearly defined rules for how the footage can be used as evidence. According to the Johnson County Court Clerk Office, whether footage is admissible is entirely up to each individual judge, on a case-by-case basis.

These vague rules leave normal people (who lack clip-on cameras to protect themselves from accusations) in an increasingly vulnerable position relative to law-enforcement officials.

Just remember next time you’re talking to the University of Iowa police to smile  — you’re on camera.


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