After violent incident in Saratoga County, should police film everything?

A gun, a badge, and a camera?  Should this be standard police issue?

A gun, a badge, and a camera? Should this be standard police issue?

This week, another video went viral showing a police officer allegedly physically assaulting a member of the public, this time in our backyard in Saratoga County.

An officer, since identified as Saratoga County Sheriff Sgt. Shawn R. Glans, age 48, was a 27-year veteran.  He was suspended after the video surfaced.

In the tape, Glans is shown demanding permission to search a young man’s car without a search warrant.  The young man declines — as is his right — and Glans, unaware that he is being videotaped, can be heard striking the member of the public.

He then seizes the keys and tells another officer to go forward with the search.

Glans, speaking to another civilian at the scene, can be heard threatening more violence:  “I can get a lot more intense.  Rip your $*%&$ head off and $*$& down your neck,” he warns.

This violent incident — read the details about the investigation here — is only the latest to raise the public’s suspicion about the training, ethics, and self-control of law enforcement agencies.

In August, a suburban community Missouri was shattered after an officer shot to death Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old.

Conflicting  accounts and lingering uncertainty about the facts surrounding that shooting have heightened a national sense of distrust of law enforcement, particularly among young people, libertarian activists, and minorities.

It seems that in the age of modern technology, there is a solution here worth considering, one that would protect the public and law enforcement equally.  Why not equip officers with small, rugged, Go-Pro-style cameras that can be activated with a tap of the hand?

Make it standard, mandatory protocol that whenever an officer is interacting with the public in a significant way — anything from “stop and frisk” to a traffic stop — the officer toggles the camera into record mode.  (Many of these cameras have storage that allows hours of recording-time, so the policy might basically be “when in doubt, hit record.”)

Obviously, the availability of recorded images wouldn’t answer all the questions that arise in these situations.  But officers would hit the streets every day knowing that they will likely be held more accountable if they stray outside the rules of civility and decorum.  That’s a strong deterrent to bad behavior.

Officers will also know that they have strong evidence to back them up in cases where they face false accusations.

It’s actually kind of remarkable that we haven’t already made this step with the public servants who hold such power over our lives — the power to stop us, restrain us, seize our property and curtail our liberty.  We’re all used to seeing signs that tell us surveillance cameras are in operations or hearing a voice that tells us “this call is being recorded for quality control reasons.”

Why don’t we do the same with law enforcement?

My guess is that in the not too distant future, when police approach our cars or knock on our doors, it will be standard to hear them say, “Hello, sir.  I’m with the police and this encounter is being video recorded.  Now, can I please see your photo ID?”

Events like the one in Saratoga County suggest that this kind of technology may be needed sooner rather than later.

Update:  Here’s another report that I found on-line today that suggests just how vital these recorded records can be.  Though in this case, police allegedly tried to conceal the pertinent recording.




Tags: ,

21 Comments on “After violent incident in Saratoga County, should police film everything?”

Leave a Comment
  1. Pete Klein says:

    No. Absolutely not.

  2. Brian Mann says:

    Great argument, Pete. :)

    Brian, NCPR

  3. The Original Larry says:

    Sad to say, but it seems like video taping police activity might afford the law-abiding public with some measure of protection against improper police behavior, and as such it is a good idea. Equally, it will provide professional police officers with protection against poor behavior on the part of unreasonable citizens. Although the police officer in this video clearly “crosses the line”, I was less than impressed with the civilian’s tone and behavior. Openly video-taping encounters like this will provide both parties with encouragement to act correctly, and to prove it.

  4. Peter Crowley says:

    Side note: Sgt. Shawn Glans is from Saranac Lake, where he used to be a village police officer:–cursing.html?nav=5008

  5. Brian Mann says:

    Thanks for the information, Peter.

    –Brian, NCPR

  6. Terence says:

    Larry, you say that you are “less than impressed with the civilian’s tone and behavior.” Remember that the police are obligated to protect our rights: it’s what they signed up for. We don’t earn that right by being meek and polite in our encounters with the police — we have that right no matter how we behave, and it’s their duty to set aside personal dislikes and deal with us fairly. By the way, many people found it MORE than impressive that the young man continued to stand there quietly after the officer insulted him, slapped him in the face, and went ahead with a clearly non-consensual search.

    And to get back to the original question of whether all encounters with police should be recorded: the officer admitted to the Times Union that he would have behaved differently if he knew he was on camera. Sort of the best argument for a “yes” answer to the question, I’d say.

  7. Absolutely. Cameras can protect good citizens from bad cops. And they can protect good cops against frivolous accusations by bad citizens. Municipalities that have used cameras has seen conflict incidents between civilians and police diminish significantly. I see no downside.

  8. bill says:

    Yes, all police interactions should be taped. We are way over staffed with police in our region I believe. Taping all their encounters would provide real information on what they do as well as their behavior and demeanor. I am generally afraid of police in our region. That’s not right. And to think that cop worked in Saranac Lake. Wow. Very scary.

    The guy stood there calmly even after being slapped. Unbelievable. And your second story is even more extreme. Seems to me taping would make police encounters s as fer for everyone.

  9. Pete Klein says:

    Brian Mann,
    I wasn’t arguing. I simply made a statement.
    If you want an argument, I am not in favor of more video cameras anywhere. If I don’t want more video cameras taking videos of people in public places, I extend that dislike for the police.
    There is a presumption that photos and videos never lie. The fact is that they often do lie.
    By the way, somewhat related or not, I am sick of football games being delayed because they go to the video to determine if the call on the filed was correct.
    We are becoming slaves to technology.

  10. Heavy says:

    While instant replay delaying football games is a excellent point, cops wearing cameras has been proven to help both the cops, and the public.

    The statistics on reduction of police use of force as well as citizen complains about officers when a police force begins using cameras are staggering.

    Privacy complaints are a bit odd, in that the average job can wear a go pro and record you in public with no real guildlines. So why would you be concerned about police doing it, under a set of rules?

  11. The Original Larry says:

    People don’t have to be meek, but they should certainly be polite. There are rules for transporting firearms in cars and the police are within their rights to determine if those rules are being followed. I’ve been in exactly the same position as the guy in the video. I know my rights and obligations and I was assertive and polite. I didn’t give the trooper any trouble and he didn’t give me any.

  12. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Jeezum Larry, the cop was trying to provoke the two young men and they remained calm and pretty respectful under the circumstances while upholding their rights. What more do you want?

  13. The Original Larry says:

    Keep in mind that I don’t think the officer acted professionally. I have no idea what the conversation was before the video started, but I think that arguing with armed policemen is always a bad idea, whether you are within your rights or not. I’m also not sure of the law in this situation, but do you want to stand on principle in the middle of a night-time traffic stop while you are in possession of a firearm? That’s a recipe for disaster. Both sides could have handled this much better.

  14. Heavy says:

    I dont know…

    When an officer knows he is in the wrong (as you could tell this officer did), threatens a citizen to comply with an unlawful order, slaps him in the face, and then tells them that he will “Rip your $*%&$ head off and $*$& down your neck”, i think the time for being a polite citizen has come and gone.

  15. The deputy’s job is to protect us from criminals, not to act like one.

    The concern I have is that according to the Post-Star, two other deputies witnessed the incident and didn’t mention it. This deputy may have been a bad apple, but bad apples too often are aided and abetted by the silence of otherwise good apples.

    I give the target of the deputy props. He has guts. So does the cameraman. If they hadn’t acted as they did, this thug would still be on the job bullying other innocent people while his colleagues look the other way. Doing the right thing is not always easy and is not always appreciated by those who actually benefit from it.

  16. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    BML: ” We’re all used to seeing signs that tell us surveillance cameras are in operations or hearing a voice that tells us ‘this call is being recorded for quality control reasons.’”

    This is SOOOO true! Wouldn’t it be great if all public servants wore cameras to record their actions? I mean, heck, drones in the sky are pretty good but they just don’t get the kind of up close and personal detail of every human interaction. We allow teachers in a room alone with our kids all day long, we need to watch them too. Social workers, highway crews, utility workers, all these people have direct affect on our lives. And it isn’t the public I am really worried about – it would be for THEIR OWN GOOD!!!

    We know, of course, that retail workers are being recorded at every moment of their day except possibly when they are actually sitting on the toilet ( we should time that, right?), but why do we stop with them? Office workers, NPR staff, transportation workers…pretty much everybody except the big bosses need to be surveilled, you know – for their own safety.

    While we’re at it why not install a TV in every room nationwide that provides a constant update of useful information and public safety announcements night and day. Each set could also have a security camera built in to record home invasions, rapes, murders, children getting a spanking, dogs being mistreated…

    Let’s do it! For a safer, better future!

  17. Tounge Chemtrails says:

    Let’s look at some examples from our area:

    -Remember that a police officer (on duty) just blew through a red light and killed a woman in Plattsburgh.

    -When they put GPS devices on cars in Tupper Lake they found out that the night officers were going home and going to bed while on duty.

    -SUNY Potsdam had a problem a couple years ago with somebody breaking into faculty offices. Turns out it was one of the Public Safety officers.

    Anybody who does not think police should be wearing cameras every moment they are on the job is un-American. From ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ to the Constitution’s fourth amendment, the on-duty cameras should be put in place ASAP.

  18. Two Cents says:

    cop was wrong. cameras or not, this is the behavior most typical in my neck of the state. police are bullies, and would have to be, to even want to take a job like law enforcement anyway. respect the law, do not cower to it.

  19. Mervel says:

    I think more transparency is always a good thing.

    The vast majority of the time recording public interactions with police are going to favor the police. Good police officers, the vast majority, are going to favor this as it will show the abuse, the lack of respect, general crap they have to put up with most of the time from criminals, drunks, dope heads and just general idiots.

    It will also serve to keep the out of control criminal officers in line; or at least let them know that they are being watched that someone cares about how you treat people.

  20. Mervel says:

    Additionally it will show the whole story. Often times when this stuff gets recorded by the public or the perpetrator; it only shows part of the story, it usually only shows the police reaction, not the suspects reactions beforehand. So if we had a police cam, always on you would get the whole story.

  21. It strikes me that whenever an alleged victim of police brutality is white, he is far less likely to be the subsequent victim of a public character assassination than if the alleged victim is black. There is always a little bit of blame the victim, as comments above show, but it seems much more virulent when the victim is black.

Leave a Reply