Smile! You're on Portland cop camera (maybe).

Well, can you believe it? The Portland police are finally starting to wear body cameras. The last big city in the country to do so. How long did that take? Two years? Three? Five? Held hostage by the bad boys in the police union. They wanted the cams to be a one-way street, great for exonerating innocent cops, but never to be used to catch the cops when they're lying.

The union and the brilliant minds in the city attorney's office came up with some sort of compromise policy that's supposed to ensure that the cameras are employed fairly, but I'll have to see it work before I put much faith in it. The city tends to get its clock cleaned at the bargaining table with these guys, and besides, some officers have a way of ignoring whatever policies they're supposed to be operating under. (Then the union eats the city's lunch in an arbitration.)

I suspect it will be months, not years, before someone will be calling "foul" over a camera not being on when it was supposed to be, or footage mysteriously disappearing. This is the Portland police we're talking about.

Coincidentally, the New York Times had a story up the other day about how some police unions are willing to wear the cameras, but demand that their members get paid extra to do so. You wonder if that's how the Portland deal went down.

Anyway, here's to the cameras, late as they are to the party. I hope they improve policing in Portland, because heaven knows we need that. But along with the hope, I don't have a lot of optimism. The dysfunction is of long standing and runs deep.


  1. I always thought the anti-police camera effort was from criminal defense attorneys.

    1. You thought wrong.

    2. Actually, the police union asked for body cameras for years. The opposition came from Commissioner Hardesty. She understood which way the cameras were pointing.

    3. True dat. I had to wear a body camera for a couple years. Really is difficult to remember to turn them on and mine didn’t record sound for the first 30 seconds. 4 out of 5 times they worked in my favor. That last time. Well it just seemed somebody ought to put a boot in the lippy bastard’s ass. Alas…

    4. Yes, the union asked for cameras under the same kinds of bizarre Alice in Wonderland rules as internal investigations and post shooting investigations. What they have fought against for years is a system that they can't cheat.

  2. Fact- checking is interesting

  3. This is how the police deal with body cameras: they always know where the exonerating footage is, something always happens to keep the rest from view until the circus has left town.


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