VIDEO: Breaking … News?

"Myself, as well as every officer I have ever known, is not in this business to hurt people."

By Jim Glennon  |   Jun 2, 2015

Officer Justin Carter of the Sterling, Kans., PD ran down 28-year-old Levi James Halford, who was wanted for an outstanding warrant and several other charges, including stealing a truck.

And Carter’s bodycam video, which the Sterling PD released over the weekend, is getting national attention. Why? Because no one was hurt. No scuffle. No use of force of any kind.

What I Saw
Several things about this video caught my attention.

  1. The video shows Officer Carter dropping and picking up his bodycam twice during the chase. “I wanted it to be documented,” said Carter, “in case something bad was to happen.” Great job on his part. But, like it or not, that’s becoming the psyche of police officers: We’re so afraid we’ll be accused of doing something wrong that in the middle of a foot chase this officer made sure his camera was operating. Carter is obviously in great physical condition as he is able to pick up his camera and still apprehend the subject. But he was also lucky that he was able to do this safely. Higher stakes encounters wouldn’t allow such a luxury. It’s sad that officers need worry about the aftermath more than their immediate safety. Still, a great job by Justin Carter and the other officers.
  2. It demonstrates the reality of chasing someone on foot. Listen to the officer breathe as he runs. Good training point. The faster you breathe and the longer you run the higher the stress and the less oxygen exchange takes place, which makes it more difficult to make split-second decisions.
  3. The subject didn’t resist once caught and the officers did a great job of containing him and securing him in cuffs. Guess what? No injuries.
  4. It seems as though some in the media believe that this is an anomaly because no one was hurt and the force used was virtually nonexistent. Thus, it made the news.

The truth is that videos like this are boring to cops because nothing really happened. No fights, no baton strikes, no Tasers deployed, no guns being fired, no one shot—like more than 95% of the arrests made in this country.

Again, what’s interesting is that the story has received relatively wide attention because the suspect, once caught, was compliant, and four police officers were present to ensure this compliance. And yet the caption in major news sources is uniform: “Police in Sterling, Kansas, have released body-camera video from a chase Saturday morning. It doesn’t show police doing anything wrong. Instead this footage shows police officers doing everything right.”

The truth is that most of the video that gets picked up by the media show police in the worst possible light. The release of this video, we may hope, will serve as something of a corrective to the false narrative that says police routinely deploy too much force. It’s a narrative Carter doesn’t buy: “Myself, as well as every officer I have ever known, is not in this business to hurt people. We just want to do our jobs.”

Bodycams Are Here to Stay
Bodycams have come on faster than any technology modern policing. What was rare five years ago is now the expectation. Police officers and the public like the corroborating evidence—so long as it’s corroborating their side of the story.

It’s great to have those cameras,” said Carter, “and to be able to release that information so that people can maybe sleep a little easier at night knowing that we’re out there doing our jobs.”

This incident isn’t the exception, it’s the norm. It’s what we do every day without notice, and this itself is what’s interesting.

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Jim Glennon
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.