Cops at the monolith

I have a useful phrase that describes my general approach to new technology: “ape at the monolith.” It refers to the opening scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey” when the apes react to the monolith’s appearance by screaming and throwing stuff. That’s pretty much how I respond to new gadgets and software, except I usually keep the screaming inside my brain.

Well, the Burlington Police Department seems to have the same problem.

VPR’s Taylor Dobbs has a “funny if it wasn’t so sad” report about a shooting incident in September. The incident itself wasn’t funny; a Colchester man was wounded by Burlington police. Today, authorities cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.

From the way the incident was described, it sounds like the right call. But we have to take the officers’ word for it because they turned off their body cameras during the incident, fearing that the cameras’ red lights would compromise their safety.

Trouble is, as Dobbs reports, the users’ manual says the red light can be disabled without turning off the camera.

Which led to an absolutely priceless exchange between Dobbs and Deputy Police Chief Bruce Bovat:

“So the media has me on the phone and they say they have the manual for the Taser AXON. That’s the one we have right?” he said to someone after asking a reporter to hold. Bovat relayed the information about the contents of the manual to someone, then said:

“Holy mother of [expletive deleted]. Are you saying that all we have to do is hold the button for 10 [expletive deleted] seconds and it goes to stealth mode, but we can hold it again for 10 seconds and it’ll come back?”

The phone line went silent before Bovat returned to ask for more time, then returned to say he would call back later.

Holy mother of [expletive deleted], indeed. Are you saying the Deputy Police Chief doesn’t know how the cameras work? Are you saying the officers aren’t trained in using the cameras’ stealth mode? Are they all turning off their cameras whenever there’s a potential confrontation at night?

If so, then what good is the departmental policy mandating that all officers be outfitted with cameras?

Apes at the monolith. Sheesh.

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