WASHINGTON, D.C.— —
Voice of America, in partnership with the Newseum, hosted a panel discussion Wednesday examining how new electronic devices are affecting the relationship between police and the American public.
Titled “In the Public Eye: Police, Cameras and the Constitution,” the discussion took place before a studio audience at the Newseum in Washington and was hosted by VOA’s Cal Perry. He asked questions of six panelists who regularly have to wrestle with issues raised by the new technologies: Gene Policinski, a First Amendment expert from the Newseum Institute, Mickey Osterreicher, the chief legal counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union, Jonathan M. Smith, associate dean of the University of the District of Columbia Law School, Terrance Gainer, the former chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, and Robert Villasenor, the police chief of Tucson, Arizona, who participated via satellite from Tucson.
All acknowledged that the new technologies -- iPhones, “body cams” and “dash cams" -- have permanently changed policing as well as reporting. There was also wide agreement that multiple video records – from the public and police body cameras – go a long way toward creating a complete picture of an incident. But not every panelist agreed the change was always for the better.
Villasenor, chief of the Tucson force, criticized media organizations that constantly show videos focusing on what he described as “aberrational” footage involving police. By ignoring the normal day-to-day interactions between police and the public, Villasenor said, and concentrating on the aberrational, the media were unfairly shaping the public’s perspective toward police.
But on one point there was no disagreement: iPhones and body cameras are here to stay. Stanley, the ACLU senior analyst, said, “We're really living in a revolutionary time. Photography is a form a power. What we're seeing is a power struggle.”
Wednesday’s panel discussion at the Newseum, in addition to being seen by a live audience, was streamed live on VOANews.com and on the website of Chicago public television station WYCC.ORG. The full panel discussion can be seen here.