http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/crime/op-ed-report-chicago-cops-intentionally-damaged-cruiser-dashcams/article/456257

Op-Ed: Report — Chicago cops intentionally damaged cruiser dashcams

Posted Jan 31, 2016 by Megan Hamilton
A Chicago report has revealed that dashcams in squad cars were deliberately damaged by police officers, to apparently disable them. In more than 100 instances between Sept. 1 and July 16, 2015 dashcam equipment either went missing or was inoperable.
Chicago police officers.
Chicago police officers.
YouTube screen grab News News
Records also revealed 90 instances where inspections found that cruisers that were supposed have microphones didn't have them, Auto Blog reports. And in another 30 incidents, recording systems were either not activated or were "intentionally defeated."
The problems don't stem from just a few corrupt cops. The problems are deep-seated and systemic, DNAinfo Chicagoreports.
How serious is the problem?
Chicago Police Department officers hid microphones in the glove boxes of their cruisers. They removed batteries. Microphone antennas were either broken or missing. Some dashcam systems didn't even have any microphones at all, DNAinfo Chicago reported.
Police officials last month attributed the lack of audio in 80 percent of dashcam videos to officer error and "intentional destruction."
DNAinfo Chicago reviewed more than 1,800 maintenance logs kept by police to gain insight into the mystery of the missing audio plaguing the dashcam videos — especially its most infamous dashcam case.
In that case, there were delays lasting several months for two repairs to the dashcam that belonged to the squad car used by Jason Van Dyke and his partner, Joseph Walsh, maintenance records show. Van Dyke is the officer who allegedly shot and killed Laquan McDonald, and in one instance there was a long wait to fix "intentional damage."
Police technicians reported on June 17, 2014 that a dashcam wiring problem was repaired in police vehicle No. 6412, the cruiser that Van Dyke and Walsh shared, some three months after it was reported broken, according to records.
The next day, the vehicle's dashcam was reported broken again. This time it took until Oct. 8, 2014, to repair what technicians called "intentional damage," reports said.
DNAinfo Chicago reports that 12 days later, on Oct. 20, 2014 the dashcam video recorded inside squad car No. 6412 on the night Van Dyke reportedly killed McDonald didn't record audio. Another video that went viral showing Van Dyke killing the teenager was taken from a different squad car, but it also had no audio.
Then on Nov. 21, 2014, 10 videos downloaded from Van Dyke's squad car dashcam were reviewed and findings showed that it was "apparent ... that personnel have failed to sync the MICs [sic]," police records reported.
Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting. Walsh filed reports backing up Van Dyke's version of what happened. His reports, however, weren't in line with the video of the shooting, so he has been placed on desk duty while criminal and disciplinary investigations are ongoing.
There were four other police cars at the scene of the shooting, and all had dashcam systems that failed to record audio. And only two of the dashcams in all five of the vehicles recorded video.
The dashcam in the cruiser shared by officers Thomas Gaffney and Joseph McElligott on the night of McDonald's shooting recorded 37 "event videos" during October 2014, and even had an operational dashcam that night, DNAinfo Chicago reports. Yet somehow, "due to disk error," no video was recorded at the scene, police reports said.
But the problem of police officers tampering with audio equipment, isn't just happening in Chicago, The Washington Post's Radley Balko reports.
In an April 2014 story, The Los Angeles Times reported that officers in the Los Angeles Police Department tampered with audio recording equipment in scores of patrol cars, attempting to avoid being monitored on duty, according to interviews and records.
That led to an inspection by LAPD investigators. They found about half of the 80 or so cars in one patrol division in South Los Angeles were missing antennas, which are necessary for capturing what officers say when they are on scene. Antennas on at least 10 other cars in neighboring divisions had also been removed.
But when LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and other top brass learned about the problem last summer, they decided not to investigate which officers were responsible. Instead, officials issued warnings against damaging the equipment and put a system in place that accounts for antennas at the beginning and the end of each patrol shift.
So let me pose this question to you:
In light of this, how will you feel if you're stopped by police, especially if you don't know why you're being stopped?
As members of the public, all of us of every race should be able to feel reasonably safe when we are around police officers. Did Sandra Bland feel safe when she was arrested? Did Freddie Gray? What about Mike Brown?
Now, I'm going to interject here with a sudden about-face.
The Guardian has been accumulating The Counted, a data base that tallies the number of Americans killed by police.
Out of 1139 people killed by police, 578 were white and 302 were black. This flies in the face of what most of us think because there have been a number of high-profile killings of black males by police.
Nevertheless, as many activists like the members of Black Lives Matter will tell you, police kill blacks at a rate that's disproportionate to the total percentage of the black population, Mint Press News reported in September, noting as of that date that police killed nearly five black people for every million black residents, as compared to around two million for white and Hispanic victims.
According to the Guardian's statistics, by the end of 2015 nearly three white people were killed for every one million white residents, while for black people, the number rose to about seven for every one million.
So then I find myself thinking once again about Laquan McDonald, shot 16 times by police, as Digital Journal reports. His voice now forever silenced, unlike the dashcams that seem to somehow get broken, only to be repaired for another day.
I know very well that some of the killings by police in these statistics may have been justified, I'm not saying that all cops are wanton kiillers. Because many of them aren't. But obviously, as DNAinfo Chicago points out, at least some cops aren't above tinkering with evidence if it will save their skins.
The Daily Intelligencer reports that last December, John Escalante, interim police superintendent for the Chicago Police Department, began reprimanding and suspending officers for up to three days if they damaged their dashcams. Videos are now being audited on a weekly basis. According to a police spokesperson, the department has seen the number of video uploads by officers increase by 70 percent since the penalties were introduced.
Do you feel safer now?