• Jon B. Comstock

Vote "yes" for body cameras for Sheriff's Office and local police.

MONDAY MATTERS - JUNE 29 |


ACTION STEP: As a candidate for Arkansas’ House District 96 (eastern Benton County), I intend to let Sheriff Shawn Holloway and area Chiefs of Police that I support the adoption of mandated body cameras for their officers. I hope you will as well.

My background defending police officers. For over ten years of my private law practice (followed by an in-house counsel role, serving as a Circuit Court Judge and now as a Mediator), I had the privilege of representing and defending small cities and their police officers who found themselves sued on occasion for asserted civil rights violations – routinely the allegation was excessive use of force.

What stands out in that experience is that every individual officer charged with wrongdoing, denied it vehemently as did other officers in attendance. The denials were set forth in detailed police reports and supplemental reports which made clear that the defendant (the citizen arrested and charged with a crime) broke the law. Never did a single charged officer tell his attorney (me) that he did in fact use excessive force.

There were however two cases (only two) in which police officers were determined to have been at fault. Each time I learned of this truth, not from the officer charged, but from the Chief of Police who had the integrity to bring to my attention electronic evidence. In one case, it was a voice-activated pocket recorder of a booking officer which tape corroborated that the defendant was beaten by the police (with hands cuffed behind his back), just as he said he was. The second case involved a ceiling video camera (that the officer either forgot about or thought was not recording) in the booking area, where an officer intentionally caused an intoxicated arrestee to fall to the concrete floor, face-forward (with his hands cuffed behind him) resulting in severe injury.

What do you think? Do you think in all of those ten years or more that in truth only two of the policemen that I defended had in fact been abusive?

Little Rock Police Chief Mandates Body Cameras. The City Council approved the purchase (paid for by city funds and federal grant assistance) of the body camera system – which is in addition to the camera positioned in the police unit. The police chief states “this will be a turning point” in community policing and will help hold officers accountable to the public, while providing them immunity from false allegations. “I think it gives a full story of what’s going on.” The community at large benefits.

Let’s dismantle the status quo. You and I don’t need to fear the word “dismantle”. The other day I was building a fence for a dog kennel– using cattle guard fencing. I cut several pieces and wired others together. It would do the job, but it was not right. The gate was really not located in the optimum position. I took it down. Dismantled it. And started over – and ended up with an overall better project. Let’s decide what we want community policing to look like and let’s build it. Body cameras are a good first step.

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© Jon Comstock  for Arkansas 2020

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