Having relocated from Maine to a hotel in Washington state last spring, I – just a Joe Schmoe in a seagull-stained, summer-bleached Red Sox cap – was assaulted by the hotel manager and unlawfully evicted.

The responding police officer was not wearing a body camera. I was the recipient of his lies, intimidation and coercion. The resulting police report was rife with misrepresentations and ultimately depicted my attacker as the victim. The episode could be laughed away as “Twilight Zone” absurd had it not resulted in my homelessness and criminal prosecution.

With no legion of rubbernecking iPhones to capture the misconduct, and municipalities like this one across the nation putting off any decision on the matter, police-worn body cameras must be federally mandated.

In 2014, Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri, was fatally shot by a police officer. Then-President Obama responded with a $263 million congressional proposal for body cameras and concomitants like technical training. Congress drastically slashed the request and awarded the Justice Department $75 million to launch a three-year pilot program. A 50/50 in-kind contractual grant was awarded to participating state and tribal law enforcement agencies.

As of October 2021, only seven states had compulsory body camera use for all on-duty law officers. To date, Maine is not one of them.

A failed 2019 bill calling for statewide implementation by 2021 was opposed by the Maine Association of Police. It claimed the cameras’ exclusion of introductory circumstances would offer an incomplete, imprecise narrative.


Funding the cameras, however, is the principal concern, which is why federal backing is essential.

Police-worn body cameras yield myriad expense-recouping benefits, chiefly, community trust-building audio and video transparency of interactions between law enforcement and the public. They are valuable evidentiary mediums for both internal and external investigations.

Footage replaces unreliable, biased or mendacious witness testimony and/or police narratives. And, the device’s mere visible presence serves as a guardian to behavior: Police are more likely to conduct themselves ethically and professionally; likewise, public tempers prove to be more civilly contained.

Significantly, a 2014-2015 study reported a 93% reduction in complaints lodged against police when body cameras were worn. Complaints dropping from 1,539 to 133 proves the possibility of productive and mutually respectful police-citizen interaction.

A super-sized industry, the world-dominant U.S. prison system incarcerates 2,000,000 people. An estimated 5% are unjustly imprisoned. According to a 2020 study, officer misconduct was a factor in nearly 37% of exoneration cases since 1989.

In 2021, 161 wrongly convicted prisoners were exonerated after spending an unconscionable decade behind bars.


Anthony Sanford, Jr. was released from Maine State Prison in 2017, 27 years after being convicted for stabbing to death his 16-year-old girlfriend. Police relied on untruthful witness testimony.

In the case of Kevin Strickland, false eyewitness testimony led to his 1978 conviction for a triple murder in Kansas City, MO. He was set free in 2021 after more than four decades of maintained innocence.

Even though in recent years movements like Defund the Police, combined with unethical conduct by the FBI and an overt politicization of the Supreme Court have cast a pall of cynicism over the entire institution, Strickland began with a culturally etched faith in America’s justice system. He believed that truth would be sought and would prevail.

Both Strickland and I, with forgivable pledge-of-allegiance naiveté, could not have believed a collective entity so venerable – imbued as it is with the Word of our Founding Fathers – could, with odious indifference, be corrupted from within. To analogize the effect, it’s as ravaging as the death, in a child’s wonderstruck heart, of Santa Claus.

Federally mandated body cameras would be a productive first step to restoring faith in justice.

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