Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014
News 3 Special Report: Criminals on Camera
WSIL -- Cameras have become an important tool for law enforcers, catching every move of the officers and the suspects.
From surveillance in jails, to dash cameras on squad cars, and even on officers themselves, video can be used to track police interaction with the public.
We've seen the video of officers caught on camera losing their cool and even violating someone's civil rights. But what you don't often see is the daily stresses our local police face and the people they deal with.
Whether they're driving fast to get to a bar fight, chasing down a burglary suspect, or dealing with a screaming passenger, videos prove the life of an officer is not exactly glamorous.
"You deal with great citizens in the community and sometimes you deal with people who are not at their best," said Zeigler Police Officer Ben Burkhamer.
The Zeigler police department provided News-3 with videos, offering an inside look at some of their every day interactions from the past few months.
"I want the public to see what my guys have to face at any given moment with no notice, and they do it without a lot of money and without a lot of respect sometimes," explained Zeigler City Attorney Rebecca Whittington.
But as we saw recently in videos from the Marion police department, surveillance isn't always on the law's side.
Back in Zeigler, Whittington insists, officers are often involved in high-stress situations and only have seconds to make a decision.
"Those officers often, and you will see in those videos, do not have the time to go through and study the situations and get second and third opinions like people get that after they're criticizing the officer by playing Monday morning quarterback," she said.
Whittington believes the cameras are a way to level the playing field, because they give an unbiased report of what happened; especially during times when the person being arrested may not have a clear mind.
"It helps us prevent their inaccurate memory from being a false or frivolous claim against our officers," she said.
Officer Burkhamer insists, being recorded on the job hasn't really changed how he acts.
"I think with me personally, the cameras, I'm more careful about how I might say something," he said. "Doesn't change the way I do my job, I mean, I follow the rule of law."
But the technology is changing law enforcement. "It's for our protection, it's for theirs. It's for evidentiary stuff, it helps us solve things," insisted Burkhamer. "So, it's just a great asset both for us and the community at large."
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