One of the great equalizers in achieving justice for police shootings was snatched from taxpaying citizens on Monday after a state’s highest court ruled that dash-cam video were no longer public record, according to a new report. The narrow ruling was reached because the New Jersey Supreme Court found “there’s no law mandating the recordings be made,” the Associated Press reported.
That means that following any questionable action by police, including and especially shootings and accusations of brutality and racism, law enforcement has no obligation to provide dash-cam video recordings of the alleged incidents. And with body cams many times being controlled manually – that’s code for how many times officers conveniently “forget” to activate them – it will always be the cops’ word against their accusers.
As history has shown, police routinely rely on the seemingly foolproof “I was scared for my life” defense that typically prevents any indictments. Compounding the news was the fact that now all citizens have to rely on to protect themselves from police is the hope that a bystander with a cellphone will react quickly enough to record an incident. (Although history has also shown that cellphone footage of everything from an illegal chokehold to beatings is far from any insurance that police will be punished.)
Dash cam video has recently proven to be damning against police officers who end up being accused of anything from “excessive force” to racism for what they’ve many times tried to cover up with lies.
That was especially true in Georgia, when an officer’s dash cam footage captured him threatening an African-American woman driver by telling her, “We only shoot Black people.” That officer was fired because those fateful words were recorded.
One police department in Connecticut recently reinstated the use of body and dash cams to demonstrate transparency top the community, something that will be missing in New Jersey.
“We hope this will help with restoring faith in the community about the police department,” Bridgeport Police Chief Armando Perez told the Connecticut Post last week. “It’s about total transparency. We want people to believe in our police department.”
In Mississippi, an officer was “suspended and will likely lose his job after dash cam video captured him using excessive force during a recent arrest,” it was reported last month.
But now in New Jersey, the possibility of something similar happening – you know, justice – just got that much less likely after Tuesday’s ruling. To add insult to potentially literal injury, Monday’s ruling came “a year after the state Supreme Court ruled that dash camera video of fatal police shootings should be released,” the AP reminded.