Public Defenders trying to deal with wave of new body cam video
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) - Body cam video can be a critical tool in figuring out what happened in some of the police departments most dangerous encounters.
But as valuable as it is, it can also be a time-consuming burden to lawyers.
Body cams catch almost everything these days, but someone has to watch all the footage. It can be difficult for defense attorneys, who are already stretched thin.
“I spend hours watching these videos,” said Defense Attorney Jonathan LaVoy from Kim & LaVoy Attorneys at Law.
LaVoy has seen a dramatic change in the amount of time he spends watching a computer screen. “There’s some cases where we have hundreds if not thousands of hours of electronic data or footage that we’re analyzing,” said LaVoy.
When an incident happens, you may see just a few minutes on the news, but attorneys have to watch every second of the video that’s turned over.
“We watch everything, because you never know what’s important to a case until you look at it,” said LaVoy.
“We have to watch all of it, absolutely essential,” said Thomas Reed, Regional Manager in the Public Defender’s Office.
Public defenders have an even tougher time -- they don’t have the resources of a private firm and can often have a bigger workload.
“I think it makes a busy day pretty busy,” said Reed.
Across the country, public defender offices are losing lawyers who get burned out from the relentless amount of footage. That puts more strain on the lawyers who do stay, and in some cases, public defenders don’t watch all the video, possibly missing a key piece of evidence.
“Our lawyers will tell you that there are cases they had that in the last two or three minutes of watching hours of tape they just see something that is the critical fact of what’s happening in the case,” said Reed.
Milwaukee isn’t losing people just yet, but it is putting a strain on their staff.
“I think our lawyers, they’ll comment on it, they recognize that you can read a report on something in a matter of minutes, but if it’s a two-hour video, you have to watch a two-hour video, so it definitely is more work,” said Reed.
But even with the extra work, these attorneys say it’s something they are happy to take on.
“It’s a very good problem to have, I think it’s worth it to have these recordings. The more the better from my perspective,” said LaVoy.
“I think it improves the outcomes that we see in the criminal justice system for sure,” said Reed.
Right now it’s a problem without a solution, because attorneys say the video is so valuable.
LaVoy says as technology gets better, it will probably get easier to watch the footage, which could cut down on some of their work days.