On July 5, 2011, allegedly, Officer Manual Ramos beat a homeless man, Kelly Thomas, while Corporal Jay Cicinelli repeatedly tazed him. Mr. Thomas died five days later.
The investigation ended on September 21, 2011 with second-degree murder (potential 15 – life prison term) and involuntary murder charges being filed against Officer Ramos and involuntary murder and excessive force charges being filed against Corporal Cicinelli (potential 4 year prison term). These officers had been police officers for 10 and 12 years. (OC District Attorney Press Release)
However, what is most intriguing about this story from the perspective of past, present and future actions by police agencies and officers is the fact that technology is available to record every officer’s move, but either it is not implemented, or where available, it is not mandated.
Regarding the officers in this case, how many times in the ten and twelve years, have these officers not told the truth about their actions? How many times have they made an unlawful arrested? How many times have they lied from the witness stand in court? How many times has someone been wrongfully incarcerated? Now think about all the officers in all the agencies in Orange County, in California, in the Nation - How many times is a police officer’s “word” taken as the truth versus the “word” of an individual, because of the uniform and badge?
There are so many recording devices available to police agencies including those that record only audio, only video, and those that synchronize the video device that is usually attached to the patrol car’s rearview mirror and the audio device that is attached to their uniform. Although police agencies such as Newport Beach, Irvine and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department have these devices, other police agencies such as Huntington Beach do not. In addition, even the agencies that have these devices are not mandated to activate them when in contact with the public.
Although many police officers conduct themselves in a professional manner protecting and serving the public, it’s the percentage of officers who are harming the public either with lies or violence that calls for these recording devices to be mandated. It protects them, it protects us.