Herald-Whig View

Viral videos wrongly hurt reputations of vast majority of police

Posted: Dec. 23, 2015 12:20 am
DASHCAM video from a Kansas City squad car shows a robbery suspect who was complying with officers' orders kneed in the back, punched in the ribs and called racist names as his head was driven into the ground.

This is only the latest of several videos that show U.S. law enforcement officials in a bad light. While the injuries to the man who was arrested were not serious, the damage done to the reputation of tens of thousands of officers who behave in a professional manner is considerable.

Manuel Palacio, 24, has pleaded guilty to stealing. He was arrested May 2, 2014, after a robbery was reported in northeastern Kansas City, and Palacio fit the description of the robbery suspect.

The video from his arrest was made public this month and is the basis for a civil lawsuit, claiming excessive force was used in Palacio's arrest. In addition to the use of force, one of the arresting officers, who is no longer with the Kansas City Police Department, was shown on video threatening to tell the robbery victim where Palacio's mother and other family members lived.

In comparison to other recent videos of violent incidents, the one from Kansas City would be considered tame by many people. Yet, it is still harmful to officers who conduct themselves in a polite and professional manner.

The release of the video, about 18 months after the incident, also calls into question the wisdom of police departments and jurisdictions intent on keeping mistakes under wraps. To some people, delayed releases make it look like an attempted cover-up. And yet the videos need to be fully studied internally before any release, to determine whether administrative action is needed.

As more police are outfitted with body cameras, the system for releasing video will evolve. The knowledge that every image and word will be captured will deter some officers from acting too aggressively and will incriminate far more suspects than officers.

Tens of thousands of body camera videos every day will show officers doing their jobs well. Unfortunately, few of those videos will ever be seen, and the images of a few bad actors will make the difficult job of law enforcement officers even harder.

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