Police body cameras are supposed to help Americans hold their officers accountable. That was the whole point in pushing for them. Yet in several police shootings, these cameras have turned off or otherwise malfunctioned when we most need to see the video — most recently in the police shooting of Paul O’Neal in Chicago, and before that the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
On Thursday night, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah asked: Why?
Looking at the O’Neal shooting, Noah noted that that body camera video was available from multiple angles for everything that happened before and after the shooting, but not the shooting itself. "The cameras got the whole thing except the actual shooting?" Noah asked. "It’s a little suspicious, right?"
Investigators suggested a deploying airbag may have turned the camera off right before the chase. So Noah’s team tested that: They had one of their correspondents wear a body camera while he was hit by airbags from multiple angles. It still worked.
This isn’t the first time Noah raised this issue. With the Sterling shooting, he also asked why in that case the body cameras apparently fell off in the moments of the shooting, leaving it to bystanders to capture video that wasn’t as clear as a body camera would have been.
"I call bullshit," Noah said back then. "I’ve seen white people cameras — and those things never come off." He then rolled footage of people doing all sorts of ridiculous stunts with GoPro cameras, in which the cameras stayed on time and time again.
These two shootings certainly raise questions about the the efficacy of police body cameras: Are they not reliable? Are they of poor quality? Or are officers tampering with the equipment when they know they’ll face scrutiny for their actions if they’re caught on camera?
Noah had a solution: Maybe tie police shooting stories to Donald Trump, who seems to get full attention from the media and its cameras even when the story is as useless as a man climbing Trump Tower.
"If you want the news to focus on something, you have to make sure that it has something to do with Donald Trump," Noah said. "Next time [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin have a meeting? Have them meet at Trump Tower. Glaciers are melting, global warming? Have them do it at Trump tower. Unarmed black people getting shot by the police? Have it in Trump Tower. Because that way we know the cameras will catch everything."