The Dangers of Police Discretion

The dangers of police discretion are vividly illustrated in this video, where a cop pulls over a person and threatens to concoct charges against him. Most police are honest, but the bad apples can really do a lot of harm because they wield tremendous power and are often unmonitored.

Part II of the video is here, although most of the encounter is contained in Part I above.

Here’s a CNN video of an interview with the person pulled over, and it includes snippets of the video plus subtitles.

The police exercise a significant amount of discretion, from vehicle stops to stop-and-frisks to the interrogation of suspects. This video demonstrates that taping police encounters with citizens can be quite beneficial. I believe more such encounters should be recorded. For example, police interrogation should be recorded, as this will serve as a helpful means for assessing whether or not questioning was too coercive.

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6 Responses

  1. Howard Wasserman says:

    In Scott v. Harris last term, the Supreme Court held that the video from the dash-mounted camera was conclusive for purposes of summary judgment and the plaintiff’s testimony in conflict with the video could be ignored, without the case going to a jury. Think the courts will give *this* video similar dispositive weight when the plaintiff brings his § 1983 action?

  2. Most police are honest, but

    Basis? The officer in the video wasn’t being dishonest. He was expressing his view of the scope of his power and authority in relation with how the system will adopt whatever explanation he needs to make to accept his position. In fact, the cop was being brutally honest.

    police interrogation should be recorded, as this will serve as a helpful means for assessing whether or not questioning was too coercive.

    This is one of the more problematic silver bullet solutions, because it ignores the bias of camera perspective, which is invariably used against defendants and in favor of police. I’m sure that’s not what you mean to suggest, but it’s important that one appreciates the more complex consequences of simplistic solutions.

  3. Matthew Sag says:

    See also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GclCE0cLA-o for a more lighthearted illustration of the same point.

  4. mjll says:

    When governors refuse to control the actions of the officers within their jurisdiction, what is the recourse?

  5. mjll says:

    When governors refuse to control the actions of the officers within their jurisdiction, what is the recourse?

  6. Orin Kerr says:

    Dan,

    I’m glad you are finally seeing the merits of warrantless surveillance to catch and record instances of wrongdoing.