News & Politics

Tales of the Tape: The Bigger Picture


Ironically, video footage shot by the police and others helped several people who were arrested during the RNC get their charges dropped. The trouble is that videos can tell the truth—or an edited version of the truth. That’s what the Civilian Complaint Review Board learned when it investigated claims of cop misconduct during a February 15, 2003, anti-war protest.

“The CCRB requested complete, unedited video footage from the police department. The department responded by requiring that the CCRB specify exact times and locations for which it received complaints,” reads a CCRB status report on its work in 2003. “The agency received heavily edited videotape in response, which did not sufficiently aid the agency.” CCRB asked the cops to provide unedited footage in the future and, according to a 2004 status report, the police complied.

The experiences of RNC protesters and CCRB investigators might seem like reasons for civil libertarians to support rather than oppose more taping by the police to ensure that any police misconduct at demonstrations is documented.

“We have said to them, ‘If that’s what you’re interested in, then put it in the hands of the Corporation Counsel, but why do you
need to keep it in the Intelligence Division?’ ”
says lawyer Jethro Eisenstein. “That to us is the question that they won’t answer, and what makes it ominous.”

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