Tri-City Herald: High-tech society captures everybody’s every move

Cameras are changing our world.

Whether it be the ubiquitous selfie snapped on a camera phone or a video that goes viral, our lives our much more public than they used to be — like it or not.

Nowhere has the influence of video had a greater impact than for law enforcement, in both positive and negative ways.

A surveillance camera might catch an image of a robber or a kidnapping and broadcasting of the perpetrator’s image can help solve a crime. Sometime it’s video of a police officer acting in ways that shock us.

It used to be if you witnessed a shooting, you ran for cover. Now, apparently, you grab your phone and start filming. One problem is that the video doesn’t usually get started until after events have begun to unfold. The full context has a lot to do with telling a full story. The whole story is usually beyond a narrow snapshot many of us see online or on TV.

The idea of body cameras has been the subject of much debate in this community and beyond. The cameras could be a great tool for accountability for the officer, for prosecuting cases and other useful means. But they also come with concerns about personal privacy for those being filmed, about the availability of the video as a matter of public record and about the management of the entire system.

Dashboard cameras have been around for a lot longer, and have caught some incredible footage. But if the events unfold outside that stationary scope of the camera, it’s moot except for the audio.

Sadly, people on both side of the law can behave badly. The safe assumption in this day in age is that anything in public is probably being filmed, whether you are at the grocery store or in your favorite restaurant. Security cameras are everywhere and they are much less obvious than they used to be, thanks to ever-evolving technology.

Business owners can pull up all their camera views from a laptop or even a phone. The footage can be handed over to police in the case of a robbery or other crime.

If you’re an officer of the law, a cellphone camera is likely pointed your way during an arrest. Same if you’re a law breaker.

Some videos bring clarity, and some bring confusion. Others bring heartbreak at unbelievable behavior, and some are just plain sad. Others can bring exoneration or prove a case.

The world is one big reality show these days with the omnipresent video camera. Let that reminder be your guide in how you conduct yourself, whether you’re in law enforcement or not.