The jobs of four Cleveland police officers were saved by body camera footage last week, but one had to be saved by his bulletproof vest first, reports the Christian Science Monitor. In a sign that body cameras may not just be a tool to expose police wrongdoing, footage from March was made public last week after a grand jury ruled that the officers’ use of force was justified. The rapid expansion of police body cameras has occurred in a climate of heightened scrutiny of how and when police officers use lethal force. The incident in Cleveland points to an added benefit: The notion that body camera footage could help exonerate police officers of crimes and improve their reputation in the eyes of the community.
“This is at least one case that supports the benefits of the police use of body cameras from a law enforcement standpoint,” says Tod Burke, a professor of criminal justice at Radford University. The dramatic March 11 footage shows patrol officers climbing the stairs to Theodore Johnson's apartment. When officer David Muniz turns a corner, Johnson opens fire. “I've been hit!” Muniz shouts. Another officer tells Johnson to “put the gun down and we'll get you all the help you need.” “I know you shot me, but I'm not going to shoot you,” says Muniz. Johnson refuses to drop the gun. He raises it, and the officers open fire. A grand jury determined that the patrolmen were justified in using lethal force against Johnson.