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Police body cameras: Can you always believe what they show?

Police body cameras are supposed to help resolve conflicting accounts, but Rossen Reports demonstrates three ways video can be deceiving.
/ Source: TODAY

Police confrontations are making headlines across the country, and often there are conflicting reports of what happened on the scene. To eliminate such conflicts, many communities are pressing for police to wear body cameras.

But can you always believe what video shows — or appears to show? Rossen Reports went to the University of South Carolina, where Seth Stoughton, a law professor and former police officer, played cop and TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen played the suspect in several scenarios while producer Jovanna Billington shot smartphone video as a bystander might. The results were revealing.

Deceptive intensity: Is it a brawl — or just really bad dancing? "It makes the situation look like this aggressive encounter, when of course, with a little more context, we know it's not," Stoughton says.

Rossen Reports
Violent confrontation, or really bad dancing?TODAY

No sound: What appears to be a routine traffic stop gone bad takes on an entirely different meaning when audio is added to the video.

Rossen Reports
A traffic stop gone bad? Wait till you hear the audio....TODAY

What the camera can't see: It looks like unprovoked violence by the officer — but a key detail that the camera didn't capture reveals the reason he reacted.

Rossen Reports
What the camera didn't catch: Rossen brandishes a fake gun.TODAY

Research on body cameras is still new. While there are no specific cases of deception reported yet, experts believe that as body cameras become more widespread, there will be.

To suggest a topic for an upcoming investigation, visit the Rossen Reports Facebook page.