Police Didn't Activate Their Body Cameras before Shooting Handcuffed Man

Almost a 18 months ago, Arlane McCree, 28, was shot to death by a police officer while wearing handcuffs. What happened next is unclear, because the police did not turn on their body cameras until later. 

According to reporting by NBC News, the Chester, South Carolina police department did not follow expert guidelines when deploying their body cameras resulting in a lack of visibility into the events of November 23, 2019, when Mcree was gunned down. 

McCree had walked out of Wal-Mart carrying some products without having paid for them. He later returned to the Wal-Mart and approached an off-duty police officer he knew, who had been working as a security guard, and asked the officer how much the products cost. The off-duty officer detained him and put him in cuffs.

McCree ran from the one security guard, and charged at another different off-duty officer who was also working security, and then ran into the parking lot. What happened next is anyone's guess. 

Some accounts hold that McCree had been a clear and present threat to the lives of police officers, even running to his car (in handcuffs) to grab a gun, even firing the gun. Others contend that McCree never had a gun. 

A third police officer, Justin Baker (on-duty), responded to the call. Baker found McCree and opened fire, drilling 13 rounds into the handcuffed man. Officer Harris shot 11 times. Officer Baker contended that McCree had brandished his weapon, pointing the weapon at him and refused to drop it when ordered to do so. 

Due to Officer Baker not turning on his camera at the start of the incident, there is no video evidence that corroborates his version of events. The police issue body camera provisioned to Baker did, however, feature Pre-Event Recording, which saved video from up to 2 minutes before the button was pressed (albeit without sound). But even that did little to shed light on the situation. 

“What stood out to me first and foremost was actually how little I learned about the situation from watching the video,” said Eric Piza, professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a specialist in analyzing what leads to police use-of-force encounters.

NBC was unable to get a response from the city of Chester and the Chester police department, and the McCree family have since filed a wrongful death lawsuit. 

In addition to more strict body camera policies, as called for by McCree's brother Michael, this incident also seems to underscore the need for better pre-event recording technology. Being able to maintain a longer time period of events in the 'buffer' of a body camera, with sound, even if it's not recording, might be an improvement that further chips away at the reluctance of so many police departments to have their work monitored by the public that pays for them.