Police back bill saying video evidence not always true

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(Source: Natalie Tarangioli/Cronkite News) (Source: Natalie Tarangioli/Cronkite News)
PHOENIX (AP) -

Police unions in Arizona want officers involved in violent confrontations that are captured on body camera to be read a notice explaining that such footage doesn't always mirror reality.

A proposal before the Arizona Legislature challenges the notion that video evidence in police shootings and fights is foolproof, The Arizona Capitol Times reported Monday. The bill would have officers be read a notice that also tells them they are not obligated to explain any differences between their memories of the event and video.

Fraternal Order of Police Executive Director Jim Mann said the proposed law would only apply to officers in administrative investigations which check if officers violated department policy, not criminal probes.

Mann said he has learned that digital video works in a way that can distort reality, making the notification necessary for police officers involved in investigations using video evidence. He said he learned that digital video tries to predict movement, sometimes causing things to appear to move faster than they actually did. Special software can determine the actual speed of movement.

[RELATED: Lawmakers want to set policy for police body cameras]

Mann said as an example that video of a car going through an intersection appeared to have the vehicle going at 60 mph, but after putting it through the special software, the car was only going 30 mph.

"If you view a video and then you're going to have to try and explain something that isn't what you remember, you have to know it's a function of the video, it's not a function of you missed something or you didn't understand, or it happened differently than you thought it did," Mann said.

Mann said he does still believe body-worn cameras are an effective tool for police officers.

Defense attorneys and civil rights groups say the proposed script would give officers a blueprint to explain away misconduct documented on video.

[RELATED: MCSO issues body cameras to hundreds of deputies]

Heather Hamel, executive director of Arizona Justice That Works, a group dedicated to ending mass incarceration, said reading officers the statement about video is effectively witness tampering.

"It's going to impact the integrity of investigations involving police misconduct or potential police misconduct. It's going to feed officers potential excuses to explain away their behavior," Hamel said.

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