DNA Info story: Chicago Police hid mics, destroyed dashcams

From DNAInfo (story by Mark Konkol and Paul Biasco):

Why are so many police dashcam videos silent?

Chicago Police Department officers stashed microphones in their squad car glove boxes. They pulled out batteries. Microphone antennas got busted or went missing. And sometimes, dashcam systems didn’t have any microphones at all, DNAinfo Chicago has learned.

Police officials last month blamed the absence of audio in 80 percent of dashcam videos on officer error and “intentional destruction.”

A DNAinfo Chicago review of more than 1,800 police maintenance logs sheds light on the no-sound syndrome plaguing Police Department videos — including its most notorious dashcam case.

Maintenance records of the squad car used by Jason Van Dyke, who shot and killed Laquan McDonald, and his partner, Joseph Walsh, show monthslong delays for two dashcam repairs, including a long wait to fix “intentional damage.”

On June 17, 2014, police technicians reported fixing a dashcam wiring issue in police vehicle No. 6412, the squad shared by Van Dyke and Walsh, about three months after it was reported broken, records show.

A day later, the same vehicle’s dashcam system was reported busted again. It took until Oct. 8, 2014, to complete repairs of what technicians deemed “intentional damage,” according to reports.

Just 12 days later, on Oct. 20, 2014, dashcam video recorded from squad car No. 6412 on the night Van Dyke shot and killed McDonald did not record audio. The video that went viral showing Van Dyke killing Laquan was taken from a different squad car, but it, too, had no audio.

And on Nov. 21, 2014, a review of 10 videos downloaded from Van Dyke’s squad car dashcam determined it was “apparent … that personnel have failed to sync the MICs [sic],” police records show.

Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder in Laquan’s shooting. And Walsh, who filed reports backing up Van Dyke’s version of events that didn’t jibe with the video of the shooting, has been placed on desk duty as criminal and disciplinary investigations continue.

Four other police vehicles at Laquan’s shooting scene that had dashcam systems also failed to record audio. Only two of the five vehicles had dashcams that actually captured video.

The dashcam in police vehicle No. 8489, shared by officers Thomas Gaffney and Joseph McElligott the night of Laquan’s shooting, recorded 37 “event videos” in October 2014, and had an operational dashcam the night of the shooting. But “due to disk error” no video was recorded at the shooting scene, according to police reports.

Police maintenance records show a request to repair the dashcam in that squad car was made Oct. 15, 2014 — five days before Laquan’s shooting. Yet, on Oct. 31, 2014, technicians found “no problems” with the equipment.

A week later, the dashcam system was reported broken again. Repairs to a “hardware failure” were completed more than four months later, police records show.

Read the whole story here:  https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20160127/archer-heights/whats-behind-no-sound-syndrome-on-chicago-police-dashcams

Why is it that 80 percent of Chicago squad dash cams don’t record sound?

According to DNAinfo.com, “80 percent of the Chicago Police Department’s 850 dashcam video systems don’t record audio due to “to operator error or in some cases intentional destruction” by officers, according to a review by the Police Department. Additionally, about 12 percent of dashcams experience “video issues” on any given day due to “equipment or operator error,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. ”

If you are wondering about how that could possibly happen, perhaps you are a newcomer to this blog.

Here is a quote from former Chicago Police Chief Jody Weis that I took from a WBEZ story and posted to this blog four years ago:

Weis says it’s not too much of a stretch to think officers would divert the cameras. He says when he was in charge they had a problem with officers turning off the cameras in their cars, “and I think it was because people had a fear, we don’t want this camera recording what we’re doing and I don’t know how many times I spent and said ‘Guys, if you’re doing your job correctly this camera’s your greatest friend.’”

So why are the officers doing turning off their sound?  I must admit that as a DUI defense attorney, this is something that never bothers me.  That is because bad audio can lose a case for me.  It is one thing to see a motorist have an animated conversation with a cop; it is a whole different matter when you hear that disagreement, and you can listen to all the times that the motorist misunderstands something, repeats something, gets belligerent for no reason or can’t follow a simple instruction.  It is also one thing for a judge or jury to hear that a defendant had slurred speech, yet another for them to actually hear it.  So I don’t complain when there isn’t any sound.  It is (generally) helpful to the defense.

So if it helps defendants, why do the officers do this?  I can only guess (since they won’t tell me), but I would assume that it is for privacy reasons most of all.  Who would want to have every interaction, personal phone call, or moment of speaking to oneself, recorded and possibly be played in court.

In addition, I suspect that certain officers also do not want the sound recorded because they know the things that they say to people, and they don’t want that recorded.  And a few officers do not want their phone conversations recorded, or conversations recorded, because they are talking to other officers outside the normal channels of police radio and are saying things that would get them into trouble. And they know that.

What do you think?

(P.S., thanks to Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen Hoffman, who linked to this story on social media, where I first saw it).

IL bill would add $5 fee to traffic tickets to pay for police body cameras

From the Chicago Tribune (story by Kim Geiger):

Answering calls to equip police officers with body cameras after a series of officer-involved deaths across the country, Illinois lawmakers are pushing a plan to add a $5 fee onto traffic tickets to pay for the equipment while also setting statewide standards for how the cameras and the videos they capture could be used.

The measure, which cleared the Illinois House on Thursday, would expand police officer training to include topics like use of force. It would require an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths and would make investigation reports part of the public record if an officer involved in a death is not charged with a crime.

Additionally, it would ban the use of chokeholds and create a database of officers who have been fired or resigned due to misconduct.

The legislation comes after a series of officer-involved deaths generated momentum around efforts to change the way police interact with the communities they serve. President Barack Obama recently formed a task force to study the issue, and its conclusions served as a blueprint for the Illinois bill, the sponsors said.

“What we are doing here is we are taking a proactive step … to ensure that things that are happening around the country do not happen within the borders of Illinois,” said sponsoring Rep. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago.

If enacted, Illinois would be the first state in the country to set statewide standards for the use of body cameras, Sims said. A similar effort is underway in California, but it has run into opposition from police and the state’s top attorney, who argue that individual departments should be left to develop standards on their own.

The bill would not require police departments to use body cameras. But those that do so would have to follow state rules, including a requirement that officers keep their cameras on when conducting law enforcement activities. Officers would be allowed to turn the camera off when talking to a confidential informant, or at the request of a victim or witness.

Recordings generally would not be subject to the state’s open records law, unless they contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death. Recordings would not be used to catch police committing minor infractions.

After politician was falsely arrested for DUI, New Jersey mandates dash cam videos for police

This is a follow-up to a story I blogged about two years ago, about a New Jersey politician, Paul Moriarty who was arrested for DUI.  The officer’s dash cam video proved that the officer followed Moriarty and pulled him over for no reason, lied about his reason for the stop, then treated him with contempt as he barked out orders for field tests (which Moriarty passed).  Moriarty later went to a hospital for a blood test which showed that he had no alcohol in his system.  You can read my original post here:  https://illinoisduilawyer.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/dash-cam-videos-raises-questions-about-nj-pols-dui-arrest/

Assemblyman Moriarty was vindicated by the video and he has helped to ensure that others will not be falsely accused, by sponsoring a bill which requires that all New Jersey municipal police cars be equipped with cameras.

From NJ.com:

A law requiring all new municipal police patrol vehicles be equipped with video cameras was signed into law on Wednesday, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-4 of Washington Township) said.

Moriarty, who sponsored the bill after an in-car camera captured his 2012 DWI arrest and provided evidence that lead to a dismissal of all charges, said Governor Chris Christie signed the bill Wednesday evening.

The bill requires all municipal police departments to equip newly purchased or leased vehicles that are used primarily for traffic stops with an in-car camera, or equip patrol officers with body cameras as a more affordable option.

A $25 surcharge on DWI convictions was set aside by the legislation to provide funding for the new equipment.

The bill was initially approved by both the state Assembly and Senate during the last legislative session, but was pocket-vetoed by the governor when he declined to either veto or sign the bill…

The impetus for the bill came from Moriarty’s 2012 arrest on DWI charges in his hometown of Washington Township, where he previously served as mayor.

A recording of the arrest showed multiple discrepancies between arresting officer Joseph DiBuonaventura’s pursuit of Moriarty and what DiBuonaventura wrote about the incident in subsequent police reports.

Prosecutors cited the video as evidence Moriarty — who has vehemently denied drinking that day — was illegally stopped and targeted by DiBuonaventura, who is now facing 14 criminal charges including official misconduct, falsifying a police report and harassment.

Moriarty has said that the video of the incident was crucial to proving his innocence, and against the odds, since only nine out of the township’s 50 patrol cars were equipped with cameras.

“As recent controversies have shown, it helps to have video footage to back up claims of excessive force and abuse of authority against civilians. Conversely, there are many good officers who have been wrongly accused of impropriety and this measure is designed to ensure their protection as well,” said Moriarty, who also serves as Chairman of the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

Thanks to Springfield, Illinois attorney Ted Harvatin for posting about this new development.

National Standards for Police Video close to being finalized

As an attorney who handles DUI cases from different municipalities and counties, I have found that there are several different types of police squad video capture devices.  Sometimes this can become a problem, as either something important is not recovered, or cannot be played back except on a certain type of device.  This happened a few weeks ago, when the prosecutor in one of my cases was unable to play the officer’s squad video on the DVD player in the courtroom and had to present her case without it.

Now it looks like voluntary standards will soon be adopted, which will likely result in uniformity of devices.

From GovernmentVideo.com:

National standards for police vehicle digital recording systems are close to being finalized, an official with the agency developing those standards told an audience attending a conference on electronic forensics.
The National Institute of Justice’s Office of Science and Technology is working on the “final, final” standards for digital-video systems for vehicles, OST Division Director William Ford told attendees of the Forensic Enabled Intelligence conference being held in Alexandria, Va.
In 2010, the NIJ produced a draft document—Vehicular Digital Multimedia Evidence Recording System Standard for Law Enforcement—which has yet to be finalized, according to NIJ officials. The draft document requires vehicle-camera digital-recording systems to be equipped with two cameras, two microphones, a digital recorder, a video monitor and an audio monitor.
Those systems must have the option of incorporating at least one additional wireless microphone, and the capability of recording “digital multimedia evidence” and exporting that DME, the draft said. Those systems shall be capable of recording a minimum of two video streams and a minimum of three synchronized audio streams and associated metadata.
The draft document lists performance standards for the recording systems including requiring such systems to be switchable between auto and manual focus; and the primary camera is capable of being rotated 90 degrees in either direction from the camera’s front facing position, according to the document. The camera also has to be capable of operation in low light.
The camera system’s wireless microphones will have a battery life of 15 hours in the passive mode and 3.5 hours in the active mode, the document says. All the microphones are to be capable of capturing sounds greater than, or equal to, 50 dB at about three feet, the draft says.
However, the standards have to be validated and that requires testing of police vehicle digital recording systems which Joan LaRocca, a DoJ public affairs specialist, said is scheduled to occur sometime this year.
While the NIJ is likely to move forward with the vehicle camera standards, Ford added that most of institute’s standards are “voluntary standards,” including the vehicle camera standards. “While having a video camera in a car is something that helps police, (and) protects police,” the NIJ’s standards are more designed to ensure that law enforcement agencies “are aware” of the technologies available, he said.

Thanks for superlawyer Mark Palmer for sharing this story through the ISBA listserv.

Dash Cam Videos raises questions about NJ pol’s DUI arrest

Video: Moriarty says officer falsified reports

DUI is a strange sort of crime, because so many DUI arrests are based totally on a police officer’s discretion.  While probably the first thing that comes to mind when you hear DUI is that of a falling down drunk who gets behind the wheel of a car and causes a horrible crash, the reality is that most DUI arrests do not involve an accident, and a substantial percentage of them consist of people who are barely to slightly affected by alcohol.

But then there is a whole subsection of DUI cases where the person was not under the influence of alcohol, perhaps did not even drink at all.  This is because a DUI case can be entirely based upon an arresting officer’s say-so.

In other words, if an officer claims, honestly or not, that he or she believed that the defendant was driving while under the influence of alcohol, that is sufficient for a DUI arrest, and an automatic license suspension.  In Illinois (and most states) that license suspension will be upheld even if the person is found not guilty, so long as the officer was reasonable in his or her (mistaken) suspicion.  The ramifications of a wrongful arrest can follow a person for life.

Which brings me to the latest documented example of police abuse, from New Jersey.  Luckily for Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, there was dash cam video of the stop and arrest, which should vindicate him.  Without the video, it would be his word against the arresting officer.

The video is quite remarkable.  When it begins, the officer positions his squad car on a median facing oncoming traffic.  The Assemblyman’s Murano drives past doing nothing remarkable.  Yet the officer makes a u-turn (driving over the sidewalk), runs a red light (without using his lights or siren) and drives at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour (in a 25 mph zone) to catch up with him.  When the officer does catch up, he doesn’t pull over the Assemblyman.  Instead, he stays behind for a while, while the Murano moves along slowly in traffic.  It is only when the Assemblyman made a right turn that he gets pulled over.

I can’t seem to figure out how to embed video on WordPress, but you can view all the dash cam video at NBC Philadelphia’s website at: http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Police-Release-Surveillance-Video-of-Paul-Moriarty-Arrest–174953311.html

Upon being pulled over, Moriarty is told by the officer that he had cut him off.  This is a lie.  It is true that Moriarty did not get over into the right turn lane until just before he turned.  However, there were no cars (including the squad car) in the right hand turn lane, so no one was “cut off.”

During the initial interaction, the officer lies to Moriarty and treats him in an accusatory fashion.  Moriarty seems stunned to be accused of drunk driving, and cannot believe he is being asked to do field sobriety tests.  From what is visible on the video, Moriarty does not seem to be impaired.  He is not confused, his speech is normal, he maintains his balance, he is able to stand on one leg for the required 30 seconds (and it seems like he could have kept on standing like that for quite a while) and (to the extent it is on the video) he walks the line fine. For this he was arrested.

According to news reports, Moriarty refused a breath test, but seven hours after the arrest, went for a blood test which revealed no alcohol in his system.  This is persuasive to me, since alcohol eliminates from the blood system at a rate of about 0.01 an hour, so if he was over 0.08 at the time of arrest he would still have some alcohol in his system at the time of the blood test.

From my review of the video, it is clear that Assemblyman did nothing wrong, did not drive in an impaired fashion and was not drunk.  It is equally clear that for some unknown reason, this officer used his badge and authority to pick the Assemblyman’s vehicle out of traffic, conduct a baseless stop, make false accusations, make a wrongful arrest, inflict emotional distress, damage the Assemblyman’s reputation and put him at risk for a license suspension and criminal conviction.

Yet more evidence of why Chicago Police officers were sabotaging their own dash cam equipment.

Watch a bogus stop and search

This 17 minute video is definitely worth your time. It demonstrates how giving someone a badge gives him or her free reign to violate your rights and potentially ruin your life. One wonders what would have happened to this person if there wasn’t a dash cam recording the stop? Driving under the influence of drug case and allegedly refusing a blood test? Nothing would surprise me.
Thanks to David Drumm for his original blog post (on Jonathan Turley’s blog), which I am “reblogging” in its entirety because I agree with everything he said.


-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger

This video of Collinsville, Illinois K9 officer Michael Reichert violating the civil rights of two guys returning from a Star Trek convention.

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