Now parking enforcement to wear body cameras?

Miami Beach proposes that many city officials, including building inspectors, should wear cameras.

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One type of body camera being used in Texas. Fox 4/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

When America zigs, Miami Beach zugs, zags, or zogs. Anything but zigging.

Miami Beach exists to be its particular form of extreme, because that's what it is -- a celebration of extremities.

So while much of America now debates whether all police officers should wear body cameras, Miami Beach officials want to go several steps further. They want almost all their city officials to wear body cameras.

As the Guardian reports, building inspectors, city fire inspectors and, yes, those always-friendly parking enforcement officers might be in line for their everyday duties being filmed for posterity.

No, the cameras might not capture their triumphant smile when they put a ticket under your windshield wipers just because you drive a large BMW.

But you might at least get some sense of the glee when a parking enforcement officer rolls up in her little souped-down golf cart and slaps you with a fine for your bumper hanging two inches over the the red paint on the curb.

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales suggested to the Guardian that there is unanimous political support for such a scheme.

I know that anyone who's read just one Carl Hiaasen novel about the inner workings of Miami will wonder whether someone, somewhere might make a very pleasant profit from the sudden proliferation of body cameras.

One company said to be involved in providing the equipment is Taser International, which proudly boasts that its $399 Axon body camera is "The Best Body Camera At The Right Price."

The question is, though, whether the use of such cameras might need certain limits.

Oddly enough, in Miami-Dade, police officers are currently resisting pressure to wear such devices. The Miami Herald offers that the police union believes body cameras might put "the lives of the public and the officers in danger."

Its reasoning is that the presence of cameras will be distracting to the officers and the time it takes to turn them on could mean the difference between life and death.

Naturally, some will wonder whether the heart of the argument is merely keeping the true details of police action from the public.

In June, an audit of Miami Beach police recommended strongly that body cameras should be employed. The audit pointed to a 2011 incident in which a driver allegedly trying to run over police officers was met by over 100 bullets fired by the police.

In another area of Miami, convenience store owner Alex Saleh said he had to install his own surveillance cameras in response to what he saw as police harassing his employees and customers.

Clearly, the use of body cameras might cut both ways. Sometimes, they will surely exonerate the police. At other times, it will be the reverse. Some police forces are still not convinced that cameras will tell the whole story, rather than one biased by camera angle and other factors.

I wonder, should body cameras be placed on an ever-increasing number of police officials, how many will either malfunction or simply not be turned on in the most contentious cases.

But if they're extended to parking enforcement officers, the footage might turn into a spectacular documentary about the foibles and feeble emotions of humanity.

Especially in Miami Beach.

 

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