The move to outfit police with body cameras gained steam as a result of citizen-filmed videos that revealed what really happened in several incidents where Black people were shot by police.
Since police in Baltimore started wearing body cameras last year, footage has shown a police shooting in Greenmount and the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Curtis Deal in West Baltimore.
When high-profile events aren’t happening, the technology still captures lots of other footage, and the transparency offered by the cameras isn’t limited solely to shootings. That became clear in Friday’s release of body-camera footage, which showed a Feb. 9 traffic stop where the person getting pulled over happened to be City Councilman Robert Stokes Sr.
In the footage shown by Fox Baltimore, Stokes identifies himself as a councilman. The officer tells him he was pulled over for “two tail lights out, rolling through a stop sign and failure to use a turn signal.” There was no arrest, but now there’s a record of what happened.
The officer questions whether Stokes was drinking, while Stokes maintains that he had one beer. The officer said he doesn’t believe him and gives him a choice: take a written warning and an Uber to get home, or a sobriety test. Stokes chooses the warning.
While they don’t always involve elected officials, these are the kinds of stops that police perform all the time, with body cameras rolling. The interaction shows more about what happened than we’d get from a second-hand account that leaked. Stokes himself said in a statement to WBAL-TV that the incident is “further proof of the importance of this technology that members of the City Council fought so hard to implement.”
But when it comes to police handling of the situation, there’s still gray area. Police spokesman TJ Smith told Fox Baltimore it was an example of an officer using “discretion,” which he said happens all the time.
“Each person’s perspective is going to be different and you aren’t compelled to make an arrest at a certain point,” he said.
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