Body Cameras in Police Officer Cases
Video from body cameras can be a useful tool in exonerating police officers when they are falsely accused of misconduct. The footage of the incident in question can provide an eyewitness account of exactly what happened. For this and many other reasons, use of body cameras is becoming the norm for police departments that can afford to acquire the equipment.
Positive Effects of Body Cameras
Police departments that are already using body cameras have a number of positive effects to report. First among these is a reduction in the numbers of complaints filed against police officers, and also the number of use-of-force incidents. Both police and citizens tend to curb their behavior and remain calm and levelheaded when body cameras are in use. Officers know they will be held accountable, and civilians on camera are less combative. More control on both sides reduces the risk of escalation and accidents.
According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, an estimated 96 percent of police officers accused of misconduct are exonerated when body cameras were in use. In situations that come down to two different versions of an incident, video from body cameras can be the best source of evidence. The public often has a chance to view an event from cell phone camera footage that circulates on social media, and video from the police officer’s point of view can serve to balance the narrative.
The cameras also foster the public’s trust in law enforcement, when they see that officers are using technology that promotes transparency. They can be a first step in healing the divide between the police and the communities they are responsible for protecting.
Footage from real encounters captured from body cameras can be an invaluable tool for teaching and training new officers. While traditional training videos are scripted and acted out, real-life videos filmed on the job can help prepare new recruits for situations they may encounter.
In some cases, evidence from body cameras has helped victims of domestic abuse who are often afraid to file complaints against their abusers after an initial 911 call for help. Video recording of the response to the domestic violence call makes it harder to dismiss such cases.
Drawbacks of Body Cameras
While video can be invaluable in supporting an officer’s testimony in court, it can just as easily provide compelling proof of police misconduct, and can be used to discipline, fire, and even prosecute officers. Privacy is also an issue – the public will want to know how videos will be collected and stored, as well as how they are used and who gets to see them.
Officers may have their own concerns about being “on camera” all day, and what their privacy rights are. Law enforcement should consult experienced counsel when establishing department policy on the use of body worn cameras.
PA Students Choosing Charter Schools
According to a recent analysis by advocacy group, Public Citizens for Children in Youth (PCCY), the number of children attending charter schools in the four counties surrounding Philadelphia has increased for 15 consecutive years. Once associated with urban education, charter schools have now become popular in the suburbs as well.
The PCCY analysis, called “Uncharted Territory,” reveals that 15,725 students from Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties were enrolled in charter schools in 2016.
While much of the activity is in Delaware and Chester counties, Chester-Upland is the only suburban district in which most of public school students attend charter schools. However, 13 other districts, including the Coatesville Area, Bensalem Township, and Avon Grove, have five percent of students or more attending charter schools. In 2016, the suburban school districts made charter payments totaling $217 million, and charter school costs have increased by $73 million over the past five years.
Charter schools were introduced in Pennsylvania in 1997, intended to be independent focal points of innovation. Over the years, Philadelphia has remained number one in terms of charter students, with 70,000 of its 202,000 students enrolled, which amounts to 35 percent. However, suburban charter schools continue to add about 920 students each year, consistently.
The PCCY report sought to examine whether charter schools are an “effective and efficient use of taxpayer money in the southeast Pennsylvania suburbs”.
Reasoning for More Charter School Enrollment
While the report did not seek to answer why more suburban families are enrolling their children in charters, PCCY’s executive director believes that suburban families are seeking alternatives due to the financial burden placed on school districts. She explains that there has been an increase in poverty in some suburban districts, causing there to be less money available to students with more complex needs. Parents who do not believe their school district has adequate resources to educate their child may consider sending their child to a nearby charter.
A Pennsylvania senator and charter supporter agrees that districts are struggling to provide quality education to an increasingly diverse population.
About three-quarters of charter students are enrolled in brick and mortar charter schools, while the remaining quarter is enrolled in cyber charter schools. Both types of charters have experienced steady growth; Chester County has 4,787 students enrolled in brick and mortar charters and 990 students enrolled in cyber charters; Delaware County has 4,351 students enrolled in brick and mortar charters and 1,380 students enrolled in cyber charters. Brick and mortar charter schools and cyber charter schools have received $50 million more and $24 million more in tuition costs than five years ago, respectively.
Recommendations for Change
PCCY attributes higher costs and stagnant performance to Pennsylvania’s “weak and outdated charter school law”. The group makes several recommendations to improve the funding system and increase the academic quality of charter schools, including implementing a standardized cyber charter tuition rate, applying Pennsylvania’s public school special education funding formula to charter schools, and providing a clear definition of “high quality,” which will be used as a criterion for approval.
PCCY also suggests allowing the bottom ten percent of charters to close expediently to protect students and taxpayers from failure and allowing high quality charters to grow by giving the top ten percent more flexibility to expand.
For more information on ongoing legal issues pertaining to charter schools or legal representation on education law matters, call the Malvern charter school attorneys at The MacMain Law Group, LLC at 484-318-7106 or contact us online.
Church and School Compliance
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (The Charter) was established in 2002 in response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The Charter includes a set of procedures for addressing these types of allegations, as well as guidelines for prevention of future acts of abuse. It aims to promote healing and reconciliation with victims and to create a safe environment within the Church, so that future violations will be less likely to occur.
Background Checks and Training
Article 13 of The Charter states that dioceses/eparchies are required to conduct background checks on all church staff and volunteers whose duties include ongoing, unsupervised contact with minors. All staff members and volunteers working with children are also required to undergo training in the interest of providing a safe environment for children and young people within the Church. To sustain accountability, all parishes and schools are required to submit documentation detailing which workers had completed the screening and training, and which ones had not.
Annual Compliance Report
The Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection (SCYP) is also required to submit an annual compliance report documenting dioceses/eparchies’ progress in implementing and maintaining the standards set forth in The Charter. The report must include the names of dioceses/eparchies that are not in compliance.
According to the 2017 SCYP report, 66 Catholic parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Newark were not in compliance with The Charter. It is unclear whether the parishes and schools conducted the background checks and training but failed to file the required paperwork, or whether they failed to conduct the required background checks and training altogether.
All parishes and schools are required to apply for access to a server dedicated to performing background checks that investigate workers’ criminal history. According to the SCYP, some parishes and schools have neither applied for access, nor initiated the background check process.
Those charged with overseeing compliance urge parishes to prioritize background checks and training. Pastors are called to make announcements at the end of Mass regarding employee and volunteer compliance.
More than a dozen schools and parishes on the list cite staffing issues and high turnover rates as a major hindrance to compliance. However, various authorities recognize that the noncompliance issue is problematic, and that background checks and training are a must. The director of communications for the Archdiocese of Newark stated that the Archdiocese will be acting aggressively to bring any noncompliant parishes into full compliance.
Standards for Compliance
Churches and schools should bring themselves into compliance with The Charter by meeting several standards as set forth by the Archdiocese, including:
- Having all applicants for Church personnel positions that involve contact with minors read and sign an agreement to abide by the Policies and the Archdiocesan Code of Ethics
- Cooperating, as necessary, with criminal record checks that shall be conducted after hire but before the start of ministry or volunteer work
- Requiring church personnel who are involved with minors to participate in training by attending the Protecting God’s Children program
The Science of Good Policing
There is much controversy surrounding different police tactics used across the United States and their effectiveness, particularly stop-and-frisk. A new report published by the National Academy of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering looks at proactive policing methods and evaluates the pros and cons of each.
What is Proactive Policing?
Proactive policing refers to the use of proactive response methods to reduce crime and is different from a proactive decision made by police officers in specific situations. Before the implementation of proactive policing, police departments typically operated by reacting to crimes after they occurred. In the 1980s and 1990s, emphasis shifted to the police taking more initiative to prevent crime and target its underlying causes.
The lead author of the report, a criminologist at George Mason University, worked with a panel of 15 experts that included lawyers, statisticians, other criminologists and former police chiefs. The current president of the Police Foundation, and a co-author of the report, expressed optimism that police departments would be open to using the results of their analysis of research on popular proactive policing strategies.
Results of Proactive Policing
The report aimed to assess not only the impact of proactive policing strategies on crime, but the reaction of the communities where the strategies are implemented. The authors of the report stressed that little long-term evidence is available for analysis, and that more research is needed to understand the long-term effects of proactive policing.
Several proactive policing strategies were found to have an overall positive effect, including the following:
- Hot spots policing, or the practice of focusing police efforts on the locations that have the most crime. Researchers found that in addition to having a short-term crime-reduction effect, areas nearby improved as well. This strategy rarely produces a negative community outcome.
- Focused deterrence includes strategies that blend law enforcement, community mobilization and social service actions to respond to crime-producing dynamics that encourage repeat offences. The impact of such strategies was shown to be consistent in reducing gang violence, street crime driven by gang markets, and repeat individual offending.
- Broken windows policing is used to prevent the forces of disorder from overwhelming a neighborhood. It can also help residents of afflicted neighborhoods take back their communities. When broken windows policing is implemented through neighborhood-based, problem-oriented practices such as improving lighting and cleaning up parks, it produces consistent short-term reduction in crime.
- Community-oriented policing seeks to involve the citizenry in identifying the problems in their communities and how to address them. While studies did not show a consistent crime-prevention impact for community-oriented strategies, they led to improvements in community satisfaction, and in the public’s view of policing and the police.
- Stop-and-frisk strategies show consistent reductions in short-term crime when used in specific locations known to have serious gun crimes and high-risk repeat offenders. When stop-and-frisk is applied as a general city-wide measure, evidence of its impact on crime reduction is mixed. Regardless of its effectiveness, studies show that there is a negative association for communities and individuals who have experienced stop-and-frisk.
The research panel hopes the results of the analysis will be used by police departments across the U.S. to choose evidence-based strategies that can serve their communities best. Proactive policing can be both effective on crime reduction and supported by the citizens served by the police.