Why Policing Is Harder: “There’s Always Someone With A Phone Recording”


Working as a police officer in the U.S. is more difficult with the added attention after noted episodes of alleged police misconduct in the last year, Philadelphia officers tell Time magazine in a cover story about policing. “Absolutely,” says Sean Devlin, 35, who has been patrolling the five and a half years. His partner agrees. Mischel Matos, 38, says that a year ago, police did not face the scrutiny that accompanies every call for service—and not just the usual watchfulness cast in the direction of the uniform. People are recording every move you make, or at least every arrest. “The difference comes up every time we encounter an investigation,” says Matos. “There's always somebody through the window with a phone recording, expecting us to do something wrong.”

It's the new reality facing the 680,000 sworn police officers working in the U.S. today, what Time calls “An inversion of the traditional assumption prevailing at the scene of a reported crime, of who's the bad guy in this picture. Black cops speak with feeling about the difficult history that created the neighborhoods they patrol, riddled with narcotics and the guns that accompany that business. For instance, every cop seems to want a camera of his or her own. They say that body cams, which thousands of local departments are exploring, will assure a video record of an entire encounter, not just the physical scramble captured on bystanders' cell phones that come out at the point where an arrest is being made, of someone who does not want to be arrested. That person sometimes is more likely to resist when cameras are around, some officers say. (The full story is available only to paid subscribers.)

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