Dash cameras and body cameras have a double purpose in law enforcement. They allow police officers to obtain video and audio evidence that could potentially be used against defendants, and cameras can also be used to hold police officers accountable when they violate people's rights.
Consider the case of a man who was dragged from his car, kicked, shocked with a Taser and arrested by St. Louis police in April 2014. The officers who pulled him over claim that he was speeding and made an illegal U-turn, but that probable cause statement has been disputed. The charges against the young man have also been dropped because an officer turned off the police car's dash cam after realizing the officers' violent actions were being recorded.
The dash cam video shows the driver being dragged out of his vehicle as multiple officers arrive on the scene. One officer is seen kicking near the man's head, and the sound of a Taser, along with the man's screams, are heard in the video.
When an officer realizes the dash camera is recording, she tells the other officers, "Hold up. Everybody hold up. We're red right now. So if you guys are worried about cameras, just wait." The other officers pause; the audio goes silent; and as the officers start moving again, the camera is turned off.
Police claim to have found a loaded gun and marijuana in the driver's pocket, and he was initially charged with unlawful use of a weapon. The prosecutor dropped the charges, though, after seeing the dash cam video.
Now the St. Louis Police Department is being sued over the incident. You can read more about the case in a recent report.
The penalties for a gun offense in Missouri are very serious. If you are facing a gun charge, then it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney about your options. An attorney can investigate your case, determine whether any of your rights were violated, and fight to protect your interests throughout the legal process. As this story illustrates, mistakes on the part of police can lead to charges being dropped.