In Pinellas County California, police officers keep onboard cameras on during DUI stops. The officers, however, apparently record only what they want to record.
Until recently, it was standard procedure for officers to conduct the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, a key field sobriety test, out of the camera’s view. Recall from a previous post that during the HGN test, officers have you follow a pen or a light with your eyes and gauge the angle at which your eyes start jerking. The drunker you are, the less you are able to look into your periphery without your eyes jerking. Earlier this month, Christopher Hastings challenged this practice in the course of his driving under the influence case. The judge agreed with Hastings and concluded it was unlawful for officers to deliberately conduct the HGN test out of camera range, thereby avoiding proof that the test was even administered, and then testifying about the results in court. Law enforcement officials claim that it should not matter if the HGN is conducted out of camera range because the camera would not be able to record the movement of the eye anyways. What don’t the officers want us and the court to see? It is possible that they don’t want proof that officers are not conducting the test properly. On board cameras are just as much a safeguard that police are doing their jobs properly as they are a tool for gathering evidence.