Please excuse my use of profanity in the title, but I’m very upset right now.
I’m upset that an unarmed teenager was gunned down in Ferguson, MO last weekend.
I’m upset that a few ignorant individuals used the tragedy as an excuse to cause mayhem, and even more upset that law enforcement agencies have used these few individuals to justify the implementation of a miniature police state in Ferguson, complete with recently-acquired military equipment.
But I’m also upset that, once again, the reaction to this tragedy has been so emotional and reactionary that reason has been largely left to die by the wayside.
My problem is that pretty much this entire issue comes down to whose story you believe: that of Dorian Johnson, the friend who was with Michael Brown when he was gunned down, or that of the officer who shot him (St. Louis police chief Jon Belmar gave the department’s official version of events at a press conference Sunday).
If you want to read each of their stories, you can do so here (they’re at the bottom of the article). However, I only bring this up to make a bigger point:
Why the f*** don’t all police officers have to wear front facing cameras??
If you don’t believe that this would make a huge difference in combatting both police brutality and public distrust of the police (especially amongst people of color), consider this:
Rialto, California is a city of 100,000. Last year, Rialto police chief William Farrar equipped half of his officers with front-facing cameras that also contained microphones so as to capture every police interaction in full detail.
The results (keep in mind that only half of the police force was equipped with the cameras):
In the first 12 months, public complaints against police dropped by a mind-blowing 88%. On top of that, officers’ use of force dropped by 60%.
Though some police officers initially questioned why “big brother” had to see everything they were doing, Farrar pointed out that most of them quickly realized that the cameras benefited them as well:
“There are many police officers who’ve had a cloud fall over them because of an unfounded accusation of abuse. Now police officers won’t have to worry so much about that kind of thing.”
Obviously, I don’t believe that every police encounter should be public domain for anyone to just watch at their leisure. I also think it would be crucial to have an independent body that stored copies of all the footage to ensure that law enforcement couldn’t tamper with the videos.
But I do believe that implementing this practice would help us to avoid many of the tragic situations that feed the flames of anger and hate towards law enforcement within minority communities. Only then can we start to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the public.
Let’s imagine that the officer who shot Michael Brown had been wearing one of these cameras.
There would be no controversy as to what happened. The police department could watch the video, ascertain what happened, and inform the public within hours of the incident.
Think of how much anger and vitriol could have been avoided. If Johnson’s story was proven to be true, the public would have a lot of appreciation for the police department confirming his story as quickly as possible.
If the officer’s story turned out to be true, many of the people who are now angry about the “wrongful killing” of Brown would realize that much of their anger was unfounded.
And here’s the real question to ask yourself: do you think the officer would have shot Brown if he was wearing a live camera that was recording the whole event?
Do you think Dorian Johnson would even consider lying about the incident if he knew that the officer was wearing a live camera?
This is a cheap, easy-to-implement solution that benefits both police and the public. It continues to blow my mind that it isn’t an official policy in every police department across the country.