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Does the Garner case weaken the argument for body cameras?

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Does getting caught on tape matter?
  • Where does President Obama’s call for police cameras go from here?
  • House GOP to hold protest vote against President Obama’s immigration executive action

Body cameras: President Obama made the case Monday for increasing the use of body cameras by police, calling on Congress to pass $263 million in funding for increased police training, including $75 million for some 50,000 body cameras. But after a grand jury in Staten Island, N.Y., decided against indicting a New York police officer in the chokehold death of black man suspected of selling illegal cigarettes, some are making the point that it makes the president’s call for body cameras a tougher sell. Nia Malika Henderson at the Washington Post and Peter Coy at Bloomberg/Business Week make the case. Henderson, for example, writes, “the timing couldn’t really be worse for the White House,” because there was video of this incident and the police officer still was not indicted. Coy opens his piece noting, “Video didn’t save the life of Eric Garner.”

But there is a key point here: The police in this case may not have realized they were on video. As Coy notes, “The main reason for cameras isn’t to give grand juries more information but to cause police officers to behave responsibly in the first place. The video in the Garner case was captured by a bystander’s cellphone, and it’s not clear that the officers who wrestled Garner to the ground were aware that they were on camera. It’s possible that if the officers themselves had been wearing body cameras they might have treated Garner differently from the start.” Henderson also points to a study from a town in California that showed complaints against police dropped 88 percent the year they were put into place. Henderson concludes, however, with a broader point: That there was no indictment, even though there was video in this case and both “will likely be used by activists to push for much more than just cameras.” By the way, the NYPD has not allowed chokeholds for 20 years. Yet, as Roberto Ferdman reports, the practice is still used and hundreds of complaints have been filed. That will raise questions of enforcement and consistency for the NYPD.

Conservatives get their Immigration vote in Congress: House Republicans are set to vote on a four-page bill Thursday, proposed by Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida, that objects to the president’s executive action on immigration. It would make President Obama’s actions “null and void and without legal effect.” The bill very well may pass the House, but is not expected to go anywhere in the Senate. It’s not much more than a show vote and a way for House Speaker John Boehner to give his more hard-line wing a chance to vent frustration ahead of next week’s need to pass short-term government funding to keep the lights on. Funding runs out Thursday. Boehner speaks at 11:30 a.m. EST. … The $585 billion defense authorization bill is also expected to pass the House. It includes funding to fight the Islamic State and, on the day the Pentagon’s sexual assault report is due , the bill would eliminate in sexual-assault cases the so-called “good soldier” defense, “a consideration of general military character toward the probability of innocence in sexual assault prosecutions,” The Hill writes. … By the way, Politico’s Manu Raju reports that despite decrying the so-called “nuclear option” that allows certain nominees to be approved with just a simple majority, Republicans are unlikely to reverse the practice.

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1783, George Washington summoned his military officers to Fraunces Tavern in New York City to tell them he was resigning from the Continental Army and returning to civilian life. Witnesses described the future president as “suffused in tears”. How many U.S. presidents took office after serving as a military general and without holding prior elected office in the U.S. government? The first to tweet the correct response to #PoliticsTrivia will get recognition of their savvy with a Morning Line shoutout. We’ll give you the answer, and the answer to yesterday’s question about Andrew Jackson’s birthplace, tomorrow.

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