When the two Baton Rouge police officers pinned down Alton Sterling and fatally shot him in July, bystanders in a car had the good sense to record the harrowing incident. The cops were also wearing body cameras, but police later said that they had fallen off during the altercation, a claim that has raised more than a few eyebrows.
Similarly, later that month, three Chicago cops opened fire on another black man, Paul O'Neal, killing the 18-year-old. Police body cams captured scenes before and after the fatal shooting, but curiously failed to record the actual shooting itself
Though the news cycle has moved on to other things, The Daily Show host Trevor Noah decided to revisit this bizarre reoccurrence. "Why does this keep happening with body cam videos?" Noah asked on his show Thursday night.
According to reports, investigators suggested that the malfunctioning body camera of one of the Chicago cops may have something to do with a deployed airbag in the police car. So Noah decided to put that allegation to the test, enlisting Daily Show correspondent Ronny Chieng to be the subject of many airbags going off while he wears a body cam.
While the airbags were a significant obstruction in Chieng being able to carry out his daily activities, the body camera on him remained — unsurprisingly — functioning throughout.
The efficacy of police body cameras, meant to prevent police misconduct, has been called into question. That it oftentimes doesn't serve its function shows the limits of a program that the Justice Department allocated $23 million to test. Officers are able to turn them on and off as they please, which seems like what might have happened in Chicago. What's more, cops found to be violating their department's rules on body cameras rarely face repercussions, giving them little incentive to abide by them in the first place.
Noah has raised this issue on his show before. Following Sterling's death, he expressed suspicion about the police's claims that their body cams fell off. "I call bullshit," he said, adding, as footage from GoPros were rolling: "I've seen white people cameras — and those things never come off."