February 18, 2015

On April 14, 2014 Cortez Bufford was stopped by the St. Louis police, dragged from his car, kicked, and tased before one of the officers noted that the dashcam was running and told everyone to hold all action until it was turned off.

Police had stopped his car which did not fit the exact description of the car they had just received a call about, and what happened next is amazing and disturbing.


At one point in the video, a female officer can be heard saying: "Hold up, everybody, hold up. We're red right now so if you guys are worried about cameras just wait."

The phrase "we're red right now" indicates that a camera is recording.

A second dashcam continued to record.

Video of the April arrest shows officers stopping a vehicle being driven by Cortez Bufford, whose car roughly matched the description of one possibly involved in an area shooting.

As officers approached the vehicle, they ordered Bufford and his passenger to show their hands. They did.

According to the police report, one officer smelled marijuana and saw what looked to be plastic baggies full of a leafy green substance.

The passenger was ordered from the vehicle, and he was handcuffed without incident.

Bufford was also ordered to exit the vehicle, but he refused and became increasingly agitated, according to the report. He was then removed.

While officers attempted to place him in handcuffs, one saw the handle of a handgun sticking out of Bufford's right front pocket. According to the report, Bufford was seen reaching for the weapon.

The video then shows officers kicking Bufford while he is on the ground. According to his suit, Bufford suffered abrasions to his fingers, face, back, head, ears and neck. He was handcuffed after an officer used a Taser on him.

The charges against Bufford were dropped.

You would be forgiven for thinking the answer to this particular problem is to require that dashcams run for the duration of a traffic stop. Some in Missouri disagree.

Asked about making police videos public, Chief Dotson said it should be decided case-by-case, balanced by privacy interests of those depicted.

Millikan said that the union is “all for releasing the video whenever it’s in compliance with the Sunshine Law.”

Cameras promise to play a big role in holding both the police and public accountable in their encounters. But there are issues about protecting privacy of the people interacting with officers.

Sarah Rossi, director of advocacy and policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, said she believes the in-car videos are always public by law. She is working with state officials to forge policies balancing privacy and access to body camera footage.

But Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has called for restrictions on public access to body camera footage, warning the Legislature of “a new era of voyeurism and entertainment television at the expense of Missourians’ privacy.” His proposal would also make police car videos a closed record.

Yes, that's certainly the answer. Keep them all locked up and away from public scrutiny. That way police officers can do whatever the hell they want when they want to rather than complying with the laws they claim to be enforcing.

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