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Culture

John Oliver calls for increased use of police bodycams

Technically Incorrect: The HBO comedian looks at the notion that police officers are rarely convicted for alleged brutality or manslaughter.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Are police officers held accountable enough?

Last Week Tonight/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

A new video seems to come out every day.

Incidents of purported police misconduct litter the web. Their accumulation appears to signify bias against black people and a hair-trigger mentality on the part of some police officers.

On HBO's "Last Week Tonight," host John Oliver examined what happens after these videos emerge.

Why is it, he said, that there's so little accountability for the actions of police officers.

In a segment that some will say includes cherry-picked elements and others will find utterly dispiriting, Oliver suggested there were several factors contributing to a perception that justice is rarely meted out to those in uniform.

To those who say police misconduct involves just a few so-called bad apples, Oliver retorted: "A few bad apples spoil the barrel."

"We currently have a system that is set up to ignore bad apples, destroy bad apples' records, persecute good apples for speaking up and shuffle dangerous, emotionally unstable apples around to the point that children have to attend fucking apple classes," he concluded.

Oliver described how in some police forces, questionable police behavior is investigated by the officers' own colleagues. He described how one way of getting out of an investigation is to resign and simply join another police force. He explained how prosecutors are reluctant to act against officers with whom they work on a daily basis.

In such circumstances, is accountability even possible?

Oliver called for the increased use of bodycams. This, though, has its own issues.

Who's going to process and store all the data? Moreover, do they really show everything that happened? Or do they still leave much open to interpretation? Some say, for example, that cameras might see more in low light than the officer does.

Then there are those who are suspicious that in certain encounters between police and members of the public, the bodycams happen to fall off.

The saddest part of Oliver's segment was the class in which kids were being taught how to interact with a police officer in order to keep themselves safe. We have come to this.

Increased scrutiny, accelerated by the ubiquity of smartphones, has eroded trust.

Rebuilding any level of trust is much harder, one suspects, than trusting in technology to bridge the gap.