Tag Archives: michael brown

Why the F*** Don’t All Police Officers Have to Wear Front Facing Cameras??

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.

Ryan J. Reilly of the Huffington Post tweeted this photo yesterday. A few hours late, he was arrested along with a Washington Post journalist as a SWAT team tried to clear out a McDonald’s they were eating at. Click to enlarge

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%.

Rialto police chief William A. Farrar. Click to enlarge (Photo: Micah Escamilla/Correspondent)

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.

Police monitor a peaceful demonstration in Ferguson this past Tuesday. Click to enlarge (Photo: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters)

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.

Protest yell at police after being ordered off the street during a peaceful protest (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

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.


Reacting to the Arrest of Two Journalists Covering The Fallout In Ferguson

Late yesterday evening, Twitter began to buzz with news that two reporters had been arrested by police in Ferguson, MO.

The situation in Ferguson has been extremely tense since an unarmed black teen named Michael Brown was shot and killed by police on Saturday afternoon.

Things got even worse yesterday, as SWAT teams were dispatched to a number of largely peaceful protests. Ryan Reilly, a reporter from Huffington Post, tweeted this photo early yesterday evening:

Reilly and Washington Post journalist Wesley Lowery were regrouping and grabbing a bite to eat at a McDonald’s when a SWAT team arrived to clear out the restaurant.

According to Lowery, the SWAT team wasn’t happy with how the pair left:

After news of the arrests started to circulate on Twitter, Matt Pearce of the LA Times called Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson to investigate.

Pearce, who had actually been interviewed by both of the detained journalists earlier in the day, obviously wasn’t ready to hear that they had been arrested:

Jackson told Pearce that the officer who arrested the journalists was, “probably somebody who didn’t know better,” and then contacted riot command to tell them to release the journalists.

But before we get out the pitchforks, let’s take a second to be reasonable.

Ferguson is a relatively small town that was just rocked by a major, racially-charged tragedy.

The vast majority of Ferguson’s police force and even the officers of the  St. Louis Police Department (which has stepped in to help keep the peace), have little to no experience dealing with such a tense situation.

Riot police aim their guns (loaded with rubber bullets) at a man walking in Ferguson. Click to enlarge

They are already walking on eggshells as it is (since the police are the main source of the public’s anger), so I don’t think we should be overly critical of this isolated incident, especially since the police chief immediately had the journalists released when he found out about it.

That being said, as a journalist myself, the situation in Ferguson is becoming more and more concerning to me.

In tense situations like this, real, unbiased quality journalism is more important than ever, so any story about journalists being arrested is alarming.

Also, I understand the FAA’s reasoning for closing down the airspace above Ferguson, but I’m not sure how justified it is.

This helicopter from a local Fox affiliate was one of the news choppers that has been effectively grounded by the FAA

They claim that they are closing the airspace because a police chopper was allegedly fired upon by small arms from the ground on 3 or 4 occasions. However, no other aircraft (ie. media choppers) ever reported being fired upon.

It makes sense that a few angry people in Ferguson would take some shots at a police chopper, but there is no reason for them to target media choppers and no evidence of anyone doing so.

Should we really be grounding media choppers, which have been integral to covering the massive protests in Ferguson, because someone took a few shots at a police helicopter?

I don’t claim to be an authority about any of this and I will readily admit that there is probably plenty of things I don’t know about the situation.

One thing I do know, however, is that limiting journalists’ ability to report on what’s going on in Ferguson is definitely not going to make matters any better.

Read the original story from Gawker here. To learn more about the actual incident that sparked this massive controversy continue reading below.

EDIT: After I published this story, I found another example of media being harassed by police in Ferguson: an Al-Jazeera news crew was tear-gassed by riot police last night, who swooped in immediately afterwards to dismantle their equipment.

EDIT: Video/pictures from the Al-Jazeera incident:

The two different stories of the incident…

Dorian Johnson is a friend of Brown who claims to have been with him during the incident. He said that he was walking home from a convenience store with Michael when an officer asked them to stop.

Dorian Johnson (left) was interviewed by the FBI yesterday as part of a federal investigation into the incident. The man on the right is his lawyer, Freeman Bosley. Click to enlarge

Johnson claims that when they continued to walk, the officer took out his weapon and then fired a shot. He talked to KMOV, a local news station in St. Louis, about what happened next.

“He (the officer) shot again and once my friend felt that shot, he turned around and put his hands in the air… He started to get down and the officer still approached with his weapon drawn and fired several more shots,”

he told KMOV.

In a press conference Sunday morning, the St. Louis Police Department confirmed that, “more than a couple of shots were fired.”

Police chief Jon Belmar also used the press conference to give the police department’s official version of the story.

Jon Belmar, St. Louis PD police chief. Click to enlarge (Photo: Sid Hastings / AP)

He said that the officer (who still has yet to be named) encountered Brown and his friend while in his care and asked them to stop. He said that when the officer tried to exit his vehicle, Brown pushed him into his patrol car and attacked him.

According to Belmar’s account, one shot was fired in the car as the pair struggled. Then,

“The fight moved outside the squad car and Brown suffered fatal gunshot wounds about 35 feet from the vehicle.”

The FBI is conducting its own independent federal investigation into the incident.

Meanwhile, the computer hacking group Anonymous has promised to seek justice by hacking into the police network in order to monitor communications.

Yesterday, they released this audio of dispatch calls between Ferguson and St, Louis PD from the .

They also claimed to have ascertained the identity of the shooter, saying that they will release the name once they can confirm.