Wednesday, April 8, 2015

American Police Departments: Implement Officer Body Cameras NOW

An unarmed, fleeing man murdered in cold blood. What would have happened had there been no bystander filming?

Body-worn cameras for police officers should become standard in American police departments. It’s as simple as that. This is the most immediate and effective way to curtail the sick epidemic of unwarranted police violence that plagues our country.

I’ve seen no compelling arguments against body cameras. The advantages for all, both citizens and police, far outweigh the disadvantages.

The recent murder of Walter Scott (see article with video) in South Carolina reminds us again of how necessary video evidence can be. Where would this case have gone had there been no bystander there to film what really happened?

Sadly, the offending officer, Michael Slager, would very likely have walked.

And that’s not only a grave injustice to his victim, shot in cold blood from behind, but an injustice to all good police officers, who are put at ever greater risk because of the breakdown of trust between police and black communities.

A breakdown of trust that is due to systemic racism in far too many American police departments.

Racism is a deeply ingrained evil in our country. The battle against it must be fought on many fronts simultaneously. Body cameras won’t solve the problem of racism, but they will certainly help.

The evidence is clear that body-worn cameras reduce the likelihood of resort to force. And they reduce citizen complaints against police departments.

But most of all: body cameras will almost certainly stop this epidemic that has now resulted in far too many lives being cut short by trigger-happy officers.

We need to implement body cameras now.

Eric Mader

(Yes, I’m an American expat in Taiwan, where I’ve lived since the 1990s. And this continued injustice against black Americans, fellow citizens of mine, aside from being deeply depressing in itself, makes me depressed in an additional way because I see how it makes my country look internationally. There are a handful of fronts on which America has gone seriously off the rails this past decade and a half. I sometimes think that if more of my compatriots could see how this makes our country look in the eyes of the world, they’d be more earnest about bringing about the changes that need to happen. We make great strides, but continue to mire ourselves in many of our worst vices. In a globalized world, we should be implementing domestic policies that make our country one we can be proud of, rather than one that gives the international community reasons to be taken aback, if not on occasion actually horrified.)

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