Smartphone video’s role in highlighting officer-involved shootings

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The fatal shooting of a man outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is getting reaction online.

Cell phone video appears to capture the moment Alton Sterling was shot at point blank range by police. Without cell phone video, along with dash cam and body cam footage, Tuesday morning’s incident would’ve likely gone unnoticed.

Cell phone footage could be considered indisputable evidence, an electronic watchdog, or even a way for big brother to watch big brother.

“It’s right there, right there in your face and you’re watching it,” said criminologist Dr. Kathryn Morgan.

Cell phone video is what sparked not just the story of Alton Sterling, but several others before it.

Sterling was standing outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge Tuesday morning when he was shot several times. Now with cell phone video, dash cam and body cam footage, we’ll have several accounts of what may have happened and Morgan says may answer questions.

“Why was it necessary to shoot him,” Morgan asked.

Morgan says although we don’t know what led up to this incident, it’s part of an unfortunate trend.

“Two of them should have been able to incapacitate him without taking his life,” she said. She can say that because of cell phone video.

We know that the officers were wearing body cameras. Those cameras also somehow got dislodged during the altercation and there is dash cam video as well; that footage is being handed over to the justice department.

“It seems to me people would be more aware of their behavior,” said Morgan.

Spy Pro Shop sells body cameras similar to what police use. Employees there say the cameras add an extra sense of personal protection.

With more and more footage out there questions arise, what happened before body cameras were the norm.

“Initially I thought this will be a way, because yes, you had cell phone video, but this will be a way for police departments to look and really assess and evaluate their actions in a case,” said Morgan.

Dr. Morgan says she’d like to see some accountability. She says now that we have ways to see what happened during police encounters, if something is wrong someone should be held responsible.

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