I recently saw the following videos at the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association Command Staff Conference. The use of deadly force by officers depicted in the videos is not the central theme of this article. They are merely illustrative of the fact that videos are a fixed perspective; a fact that should be considered when using them to evaluate an incident.
Please watch the video below and make a decision based upon only what you see in the video as to whether or not the use of deadly force was justified in this instance.
Now, watch the video (no audio):
Did your perspective of the incident change after viewing the second video?
Obviously, you realize at this point that they are videos of the same incident taken from two different in-car video systems; however, the perspectives they offer are radically different. They are exhibit-A that video evidence does not always tell the complete story or give a full frame of reference for an incident. In most cases, we only have the perspective offered by a single camera.
Liken this to watching a football game on TV and reviews via instant replay. There are plays where from one angle, it looks like a player was in bounds, had control of the ball, or crossed the goal line, where a different angle leads to a completely different outcome for the play in question. Why does this escape us when we watch videos of incidents?
This issue is not just one for law enforcement incidents. With the proliferation of doorbell cams and easily installed security cameras, and of course the ubiquitous cell phone, more and more private citizen encounters are being captured on video.
Video without context does not provide a complete understanding of an incident.
“Articles” posted online that are actually nothing other than re-writes of other media reports and with no real firsthand investigation simply don’t provide enough context to form a valid opinion.
The intent of this piece is not to make an argument that video evidence be completely discounted. It is simply to show that videos may not tell the whole story.
As for the incident in the above videos, three independent investigations were conducted with the officers being cleared criminally and civilly in all three.
The item in the individual’s hand was a cell phone.