Cops Busted by Their Own Cameras

Posting police surveillance video on the Web has put cops in the crosshairs.

ByABC News
August 23, 2007, 1:01 PM

Aug. 29, 2007 — -- From shootouts caught by dashboard cameras to high-speed chases, police confrontations caught on video are a huge spectator sport on the Web. Originally, these videos were meant to help prosecute criminals, but now that the public can view them with a single click, police are beginning to realize that anyone can become judge and jury in just an instant even the police themselves.

There are more than 100,000 police-related videos posted on the Web. Many of them are clear-cut cases where the criminal is in the wrong, but others show disturbing behavior on the part of the police that has led to indictments and resignations.

Some videos have also ignited national controversy, like one appalling scene in which a young girl is forcibly pushed down and held by five deputies as she pleads for her life while being strapped into a restraint chair. On a police surveillance tape, Lisa Tanner screams, "I don't know what you're doing!" The officers yell back, "Stop resisting!" For nearly six minutes, she struggles under their grip and protests until finally, it appears, the chokehold on her neck causes her to pass out.

When this tape became public, it sparked cries of outrage because the petite victim, in her pigtails and jeans, could have been anyone's daughter. But this wasn't just anyone's daughter her father was the state attorney and his efforts to get justice for his daughter helped launch several investigations. But these investigations revealed a potentially much different picture than what seemed obvious on the tape.

And that, police say, is the danger when only a portion of police action goes viral on the Web. Police actions that seem so obvious to the eye can be taken out of context and they often are, say police. They say the public may not understand the circumstances leading up to an incident and they may not understand what the law says they say we've become judge and jury without having all the facts.