The push for police body cameras is just the latest attempt to salvage public opinion and perceived legitimacy. Such an investment just convolutes the underlying issue – the fact that police, and the entire injustice system, are based on coercion. Such a paradoxical system can never deliver its promise of justice.
Repeated aggression, used without repercussion by Berkeley police employees, caused a group of concerned residents to act. They coalesced under the banner Berkeley Cop Watch. The year was 1990.
As had been done by so many in the past, those active with Berkeley Cop Watch spoke out against police brutality. But they did something different. They introduced a tool into the equation that has proven to be a game-changer: the video camera.
The next year, in 1991 – George Holliday pointed his video camera out his house window and gave millions a glimpse of the mistreatment that some of their neighbors had been subjected to for generations.
As the price-point for video cameras became more accessible, so too did their use.
Police outfits under fire for practices that had been largely under the radar, were quick to claim that they were also motivated by transparency.
Dash cameras started to appear in police cruisers. First, paid for by insurance companies and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, eager to see prosecutions for intoxicated drivers. Then, through grants from the Drug Enforcement Administration and other taxpayer-funded coffers.
But even with the police car dash cams, the rights-violations continued. Dash cam footage went missing, or they were said to be non-operational during the incidents when their presence would have been of most value.
Meanwhile, millions of people each year continued to be victimized at the hands of police employees. Now, body cameras are said to be the balm needed.
Earlier this year, over a quarter-billion dollars was pledged to address this issue. But, despite the “transparency” mantra peddled by police outfits, their efforts are all ultimately driven by one thing – to maintain their perceived legitimacy.
Still, some who pride themselves on being police accountability advocates have echoed the call for more resources to be spent to “fix” policing. Many of them cite the Rialto Police study, which boasts that after a year donning body cameras, complaints and use-of-force incidents plummeted.
Yet, as pointed out by Jacob Crawford, founder of WeCopwatch, and Rachel Lederman, of the National Lawyers Guild, that study was methodologically flawed, and was funded by Taser International. The same Taser who, in addition to making the electroshock weapon, now manufactures and sells body cameras to police.
Crawford and Lederman point out that police body cameras are tools, not to protect people, but to collect evidence to use against them.
Police employees are trained to use the cameras to their own advantage. For example, a police employee may approach a vehicle and claim to smell marijuana, as cover for their subsequent harassment and searches. Or, a police employee may get close to a person and order them to “stop resisting”, to support claims that the person should be threatened in legaland with assault on an officer. And – policies be damned – the police employee could choose not to turn on their recoding device when they’re up to no good.
And undoubtedly, this federal infusion of funds will mean that much of the footage captured will find its way to fusion centers and other centralized databases accessible only by those wearing badges of one outfit or another.
The push for body cameras is just the latest attempt to salvage public opinion.
An investment in body cameras for police just convolutes the underlying issue – the fact that police, and the entire injustice system, are based on coercion.
While some individual police employees may mean well, their salaries, vehicles, buildings, and toys, are all paid for by theft. They claim the legal right to steal money from those in their community to protect them. Such a paradoxical system can never deliver its promise of justice.
A generation after Berkeley Cop Watch was founded individuals who have never heard of Cop Watch or Cop Block or Peaceful Streets know that it’s in their best interest to film the police. The practice has passed into the wider culture.
So, while police – like those involved in Rodney King’s beating, and those responsible for Kelly Thomas’s killing – continue to get a free passes or slaps on the wrist within the injustice system, things are changing on a wider scale.
One mind at a time, you and I and millions of others are choosing to withdraw the legitimacy upon which the entire police state rests.
- Berkeley Copwatch Setting Precedent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG-TLpFT8nk
- Peoria police beat up man on dash cam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf9qKYa2pGY
- Where’s the Justice for Kelly Thomas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNqr4Cf81js
- Want to End Police Brutality? Focus on the Institution https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SylM2vtd-u0
- More Copwatchers! Less Cops w Cameras! by Jacob Crawford and Rachel Lederman, March 13, 2014 http://www.wecopwatch.org/police-cameras-quick-fix-for-police-misconduct-or-counter-surveillance-tool
- Seen It All Before: 10 Predictions About Police Body Cameras by Robinson Meyer, December 05, 2014 http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/12/seen-it-all-before-10-predictions-about-police-body-cameras/383456
- Petition asking cops to wear body cameras passes 100K by Aja J. Williams, August 21, 2014 http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/20/mike-brown-law-petition/14336311
- Obama to provide funding for 50,000 police body cameras by Justin Sink, December 01, 2014 http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/225583-obama-to-provide-funding-for-50000-police-body-cameras
- Film The Police – http://CopBlock.org/FilmThePolice
- Library – http://CopBlock.org/Library
- Apps – http://CopBlock.org/Apps
ABOUT COP BLOCK
- Cop Block is a decentralized project supported by a diverse group of individuals united by their shared goal of police accountability. We believe that no one – not even those with badges – has extra rights. The failure to realize and act on that is to our detriment. By focusing the disinfecting light of transparency on aggressors we safeguard not just our rights but those of future generations.
- “Actionable” via http://BenSound.com
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