Citizen Videos Shifting The Misconduct Balance From Police


He calls himself “Jimmy Justice,” a “cop-arazzi” armed only with a video camera as he prowls the streets of New York looking for law enforcement officers who are breaking the law. The Washington Post says his targets are illegally parked city government vehicles — particularly cars of traffic cops blocking bus stops, sitting in “no parking” zones, or double-parked. He posts videos on YouTube and sends regular e-mail to the union representing the city’s traffic enforcement agents, pointing out the most egregious parking offenses. He has gotten results, with some parking enforcers being fined because of his videos. “I’m using a video camera as a weapon,” he said. “I believe a video does not lie.”

Jimmy Justice is a new kind of citizen vigilante at a time when amateur videos are increasingly being used to hold law enforcers to account and shine a public spotlight on their excesses. Civil libertarians say the increasingly common use of video by ordinary citizens has started to shift the balance away from law enforcement in questions of official misconduct. The police union cautions that videos do not give the entire picture; officers worry about a flood of citizen videos by people who might not understand that police work is sometimes a messy business. “The use of force sometimes looks violent,” said Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “Pieces of video don’t tell the whole story.” With the police commissioner asking for citizen videos, Lynch said, “he’s going to have to be very careful not to bow to public pressure and not bow to emotion.”


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