Perception vs. Video

Bryan-YantLVMPD has recently changed policy to allow officers to review any third-party video prior to conducting any statements relating to use of force. This is very crucial for officers, and I applaud the Sheriff and command staff for making this decision to allow the review of third-party video and standing behind all of you.

There have been cases recently where officers have not reviewed their body-camera footage or third-party video prior to completing a use-of-force report. Then, in the investigation that follows, the officer is questioned on the inaccuracy of his report when compared to the video. In some cases, the officers have been terminated for potential truthfulness allegations. Investigators, district attorneys and the courts all have different theories on viewing video prior to providing a statement. Some believe it may change or alter the officer’s statement if their perception is different from the video. Others believe the officer may add things to their statement from the video inadvertently just after viewing it. The conspiracy theorists will argue that viewing the video allows the officer to alter, justify or fabricate a version of events to clear themselves.

Typically, there are two different interview styles used when it comes to reviewing body-camera video or third-party video and statements after a use of force. The investigator and the officer and their representative will review the video footage prior to the interview. The interview is then conducted and the officer’s statement will include their perception and what they also observed on the video. This is currently being done if you were wearing a body camera or were at CCDC. Previously, if there was third-party video footage, the investigators would show the officer this footage after the interview was completed, and it would not be part of the interview. The other interview style elicits the officer’s perception first. The interview is conducted without reviewing the third-party video. Prior to completing the interview, the third-party video will be shown and the officer will be asked questions P# 14937 based on the third-party video and the officer’s perception. This style does not apply to a body camera worn by the officer.

So in a use-of-force event is the officer’s perception more important or is the video more important? We all know that an officer’s use-of-force standard and LVMPD policy is based off of Graham v. Connor and the objectively reasonable standard facing the officer at the time. The video is important; however, your perception is crucial. I discussed in the January issue of our magazine the “Ten Limitations of Body Cameras” article written by the Force Science Institute; most of these limitations apply to third-party video as well.

There are many physiological factors controlling or impacting your perception, cognitive thought process, and decision-making process. With that being said, your perception may be different than what is captured on video. When you review any video from a use of force, it is important to take notes and document the times and actions seen in the video. Watch the video several times if it is needed. If your perception is different from the video, that is OK! It doesn’t mean that you are being untruthful. Your statements and reports document your perception, and if the video shows it differently, you explain your perceptions and what you observed on the video and the differences. Remember, your perception is what matters. If you are completing a use-of-force report and need assistance, we are always available 24/7. If the use of force results in significant injury or death or was from an OIS, we will be responding. Please email or call us if you have any questions. Thank you for your membership, and stay safe.