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Video Footage of Police Brutality Is Not Always Conclusive


With the rise of police brutality came more and more police departments requiring officers to wear body cameras. These small, portable cameras (many of which are also available for consumer purchase) were supposed to catch and record everything an officer says and does. The result would be a deterrent to officers overstepping their boundaries, and a deterrent to police misconduct.

Of course, video footage of police actions has also become more prevalent simply because seemingly everyone has a smart phone at the ready to record interactions between police and the public.

Footage Is Not Conclusive

In any case where police actions are involved—from an arrest, to use of the footage to show someone arrested has committed a crime, to the use of the footage to demonstrate police misconduct—you would think that video footage would be conclusive evidence. We are, after all, visual animals, and it should be easier for any jury to resolve factual disputes with the aid of video footage.

However, in a courtroom, video footage often has the opposite effect from what’s intended, or else, the footage provides leeway for the other side to make an opposing argument. A victim may find that the same footage they are relying upon is also used by the police department to show that there was no abuse of power.

Video Can be Used by Officers

Sometimes video even opens the door to an officer’s defense of police brutality allegations. For example, footage of an officer striking someone he or she is arresting may at first seem persuasive—unless a closer look at the video shows the person being arrested was fidgeting, arguing, waiving his or her arms, or even just taking a defensive or hostile stance, all actions that can be seen by a jury as resisting arrest. The risk of a jury misinterpreting what is happening in a video is worsened when the video is shot from far away, or there is no audio on the video footage, as is often the case.

Video in Court

In court, video footage will be played in slow motion, over and over again. Every movement of every person in the footage will be played slowly, repeatedly, and analyzed. Sometimes, the footage may not even determine important facts, such as whether someone was standing with a fist or an open hand, which may make a difference in determining whether an officer used excessive force. Experts will also be called on in court to analyze every second of the video.

Unfortunately, in many cases, the victim who is seen “resisting” an arrest, or being hostile towards an arresting officer, is really just trying to defend him or herself from an officer’s brutality. However, questions of who started the aggression are usually not so clear cut from video alone. Thus, while video evidence is a tool to be used in court, it is not always the entire story.

Have you been a victim of brutality, excessive force or police misconduct? Contact the Alabama police misconduct attorneys at Lasseter Law Firm today to discuss whether you have a cause of action for damages.


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