Ferguson Assault Case Shows Limits of Police Body Cameras


A criminal case related to the February arrest of a wheelchair-bound woman, Heather De Mian, 45, during protests in Ferguson, Mo., shows the potential flaws in police body camera evidence, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In Ferguson's version of events, De Mian, who is charged with assault, blinded an officer with a light on her phone and then struck him with it when he tried to push it away, cutting his left thumb. De Mian says she was the one assaulted. As police arrested several protesters, she was punched in the jaw and dumped out of her wheelchair, she said.

She has asked for body camera video that might shed light on the events, but police said Thursday they have no video from that night. Officials have declined to explain what may have happened to the recording. Body cameras have been touted as a means of providing definitive accounts of officer interactions. But De Mian's case shows that if the camera data is not stored properly, consistently, or with transparency, the technology can foster further distrust. A Ferguson group is seeking a city charter amendment that would mandate that officers keep cameras turned on and that the department store the data for at least two years.

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