Police Shootings: Caught on Camera

Mark Kelley investigates what happens when police are “caught on camera” in the U.S. and Canada.

Caught on Camera

7 years ago
Duration 45:07
They are images that shocked America and were around the world - disturbing cell phone videos taken by bystanders of police shooting black men in America. Police body cameras are being seen as a way to curb the killings -- police the police. But can the cameras distort the picture? Mark Kelley investigates what happens when police are "caught on camera" in the U.S. and Canada.

They are images that shocked America and were shared around the world – disturbing cell phone videos taken by bystanders of police shooting black men in America. They became political fodder for an ugly presidential campaign.

To capture what is really going on during these confrontations, police-worn body cameras are increasingly seen as the answer: a way to curb the killings - and police the police.

But can the police-worn body cameras also distort the picture? Do they sometime give us an incomplete version of what really happened?

Mark Kelley investigates what happens when police are "caught on camera" in the U.S. and Canada.

A black Ontario teenager who saw charges against him dropped after video emerged of his encounter with officers says police should be required to wear body cameras.

Jake Anderson was 17 when he was arrested and charged with public intoxication, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest in Chatham on July 25, 2015.

After news surfaced a month later of surveillance video that captured part of the incident in the southwestern Ontario community, the charges were dropped.

Anderson now says he feels police should have body cameras.

"I don't think they would've done the things they did if they knew they were being recorded," Anderson told the fifth estate in his first public comment on the incident. "We were in an area where nobody was watching, they're free to do whatever they want."

The surveillance video, shown on CBC-TV as part of the fifth estate investigation "Caught on Camera," differs markedly from the police version of events.

Police Caught on Camera in Chatham Ontario

7 years ago
Duration 3:39
Mark Kelley looks at a case in Chatham Ontario where a young man's arrest after a confrontation with police took a dramatic turn when video emerged.

The chief of the Chatham-Kent Police Service declined requests from the fifth estate for an interview, citing the fact that Anderson was a minor at the time and could not be identified, and that there was "a potential for ... a civil litigation."

Noise complaint

What happened between Anderson and the Chatham-Kent police is in dispute, but both sides agree on how it all began.

That night, Anderson and his girlfriend were walking through a cemetery across the street from a house party they had attended. They'd both been drinking. Police were called to the cemetery for a noise complaint.

Const. Fraser Curtis went to investigate.

"He had his pistol out and he was pointing it at us," Anderson told the fifth estate. "He told my girlfriend to come to him, and he isolated me.

"At first I was confused, like why he had his gun out, why he was being aggressive towards me," Anderson said.

Curtis sent the two on their way.

Later that night, Anderson and his girlfriend were getting a ride home from his cousin when they passed a group of police officers. Anderson says he gave the officers the middle finger.

One officer, Const. John Deforest, decided to pursue the vehicle and pull it over, according to his police report. They came face to face outside Anderson's house. Deforest was later joined by Curtis, the officer who had encountered Anderson at the cemetery

According to official reports of the event obtained by the fifth estate, police allege an "aggressive" and  "intoxicated" Anderson started a confrontation with police.

The reports say that when police tried to arrest him, he "fought violently then broke free."  They reported that they eventually subdued him with a Taser and took him to the police station.

Anderson's father, Ty Roberts, says when he went to pick up his son from jail the next morning, he was furious with Jake.

"I just looked at him and just shook my head," Roberts said. "We got into the car and I was asking, 'What was he doing assaulting a police officer, you know how stupid that is, right?' "

"He said, 'I didn't do anything wrong,' and I didn't believe him," Roberts said. "The police made it sound very believable."

Chatham-Kent police don't wear body cameras, so it was their word against Anderson's.

Camera on the porch

But when Anderson arrived home after that night in jail, he remembered something that would change everything.

On the front porch of the family home was a security camera, just a few metres from where the confrontation took place. The camera caught some, but not all, of what happened that night.

The grainy footage shows a police car pulling up to Anderson's house before a struggle ensues. An officer approaches a male standing in front of the house and everyone in the video goes out of view for 41 seconds.

That's where police say Anderson assaulted them. He denies this allegation.

But the end of the encounter is caught on camera — and at this point the police account differs from what is caught on camera.

The first time Anderson is seen on the video, he is flying into the rock garden in front of his house.

The police reports obtained by the fifth estate say that after fleeing from them, Andersen tripped and was "on his back throwing punches."

But the video shows Anderson on his stomach, being punched several times by an officer and then Tasered. The teenager does not appear to be fighting back.

"Then I felt an officer pick me up," Anderson said. "I thought maybe he was picking me up to put cuffs on, but I got hit in the head maybe six times … with fists. He was a pretty big guy, so it was some pretty big blows to the head."

Both police officers reported Anderson was jolted by the Taser not in the back but "onto the stomach area" as he threw punches at them.

Anderson disputes that. "I felt a jolt in my back," he said. "It was a Taser. I got hit in the neck, both sides of my neck, got hit in the chest, in the back a couple of times."

After seeing the video, Anderson's father believed his son's story and hired local defence lawyer David Sandor.

He says he spoke to Crown prosecutors and suggested they watch the video. Shortly afterward, in August 2015, the Crown dropped all charges against Anderson.

Anderson's father made a complaint against police for assault, racial discrimination and lying in their reports.

A year after the incident — in July 2016 — the Chatham-Kent Police Service completed its internal review and cleared its officers of any wrongdoing, despite admissions from them that their accounts of key parts of the encounter with Anderson differed from what the security video captured.

Video 'appears to be damning'

According to the internal investigation report obtained by the fifth estate, "both officers are aware" there are what they call "inaccuracies in their reporting" when matched against the video.

"Officer Deforest admits that the circumstances seemed incorrect when viewed against the video," the report says, but he insists he did receive the blows from Anderson — just that they occurred "out of time sequence, as is seen in the video."

Deforest says "he was tired" when he filed his reports and he "put the brief together quickly without being as careful and accurate as they should have been."

For his part, Curtis says his memory "is in conflict with the video, and he accepts that he was wrong in his recall."

"The video itself appears to be damning," police admit in the internal report.

But the report concludes "when taken into account what occurred off camera … the situation has a different light shed upon it."

Several police witnesses say the video does not capture Anderson's assault on Deforest when he was trying to arrest him.

In the end, the internal police investigation cleared the officers of the most serious allegations.

The investigation ruled the officers "did not use excessive force" and that "there is not any evidence of any racial overtones" to the officers' actions.

Officers disciplined

Still, both officers were "disciplined" for "neglect of duty" for failing to accurately report the incident.

Curtis was criticized for failing to report he drew his gun at the cemetery.

Anderson's family is suing the Chatham-Kent Police Service.

"We are seeking damages for the pain and the suffering and the emotional and psychological distress experienced by Jake and his family as a result of the officers' inappropriate use of force and negligent statements made over the course of the prosecution," Sandor told the fifth estate.

Anderson knows it was the video footage that saved him from a conviction.

"If a police officer has a camera … I feel like it would solve a lot of problems," Anderson said.

"Every time I think about this, I would have never thought I would have to yell help while I'm being held by police officers."