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"Growing pains:" controversy swirls around police body cameras

Zero for six.

That was the final tally on the number of police body cameras employed in a 2014 chase and fatal shooting of a teenage girl that supplied any useful evidence.

Critics of body cameras -- and, candidly, that is a progressively growing legion of naysayers across the country, including in California -- might term that a bit differently. In fact, many of them are saying that a completely ineffectual result issuing from multiple videos at the scene points squarely at evidence tampering and a collective police effort to erase footage revealing wrongful conduct.

"Obscure rather than illuminate."

Those are words used in a recent national media expose/report on what happened -- on what both police and the young girl's family say happened, respectively -- on the night the victim was fired at five times and killed by an officer during a chase in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

His camera was not on, as department policy dictated. Three other cameras worn by additional officers at the scene failed to provide footage of the shooting. A fourth camera was reportedly "oddly blurred." And two additional cameras showed nothing at all.

Understandably, that has invoked both mass ire and concern across a large swath of the general public regarding a tool that has been lauded in recent years by police agencies across the country for its alleged efficacy in increasing transparency in police/citizen encounters.

As the Washington Post notes, a growing band of camera foes now regards police use of such tools with flat suspicion, believing that departments have doctored video in many instances to create pro-police versions of realities that actually played out quite differently.

"[W]e are coming to understand that these systems can be manipulated," says a spokesperson for the victim's family.

In any criminal case where body cameras have supplied material evidence, a proven defense attorney will be sure to subject them to exacting examination, knowing that what they immediately seem to show -- or do not show -- may spell only a portion of a larger truth.

Or, indeed, a complete obscuring of what really happened.

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