Tuesday, 5 August 2008

NYPD encourages citizens to use their phones to film crime

Two years ago I saw a young teenager who appeared to have stolen 2 DVDs receive OTT manhandling first by a security guard and then by two Hertfordshire police officers. Due to their lack of care and their insistence in holding on to his body a number of struggles soon led to the child being forced face down on a busy Watford high street as the frantic police officers awaited further backup! At the time I complained to the policeman who was brandishing most of the punishment. He took immediate offence and directed some of his rage in a mumbled outburst towards me. This led me to brandish my first video Camera phone (a Nokia 7600). After about 10 seconds of filming I was told by a different officer that I was not allowed to film the incident and if I didn’t leave the scene I would be arrested! Despite other citizens also kicking up a fuss none of our comments were listened to.

We were also told that we could only make a statement if we made our own way to the station. (Regrettably I did not find out where their station was and make a formal complaint). Since then I have been increasingly fascinated in how mobile UGC (user generated content) can help/hinder police investigations and trials. A few months ago I brainstormed ideas surrounding a mobile video upload site for a neighborhood watch campaign. However I disregarded the concept due to the fact that someone filming an incident could easily become a victim if they were seen. Therefore I came to the conclusion that such a campaign would never take off in the UK.

In New York however the police are actively encouraging citizens to stand up against crime and use their phone for the good of their fellow New Yorkers. "We're putting technology in place to enable us to do that. It's a fact of life, everybody has a camera in their telephones. When people can record an event taking place that helps us during an investigation, it's helpful." (New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly) Furthermore the NY police are actively encouraging citizens to film any wrong doings by the police. It will be interesting to see the success of this project and whether such a scheme ay e day be embraced in the UK and across the Globe.

Here is a recent mobile phone video of a NYPD officer assaulting a cyclist. It has already received over 1m views on Youtube:

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