Friday, May 8, 2015

How many videos is it going to take?

I keep wondering just which century some cops are living in. Did they sleep right through the invention of videotape? Digital cameras? Smart phones? Seems like about once a week, maybe more often, we're treated to viral videos that show police misbehavior or to news stories with headlines like "Video Shows White Cop Kicking Black Man in Face." That was one of today's headlines that came up when I closed Hotmail and the MSN page magically appeared.

In this most recent case, which actually isn't that recent -- the incident in question occurred back in 2013 -- the beating was recorded by a cop car dashboard cam. That raises two different, albeit related, questions. First, just when are law enforcement officers going to figure out that anything they do might be recorded? Back when the Rodney King beating happened, the recording was a fluke. Someone happened to have a video camera. It was back in the days when recording devices were still relatively bulky and took tape cartridges. That was over 20 years ago, though. Recording devices have become much, much smaller. They're also everywhere. Even my cheap little Tracfone, a bottom of the line dumb phone, can do video. Granted, only about 30 seconds worth, but video none the less. Smart phones have a lot more recording capacity, and more and more people have smart phones. In addition, the courts have ruled that the public has a right to film anything they see the police doing. For awhile, cops were trying to keep a lid on things by confiscating cameras and erasing videos. Not surprisingly, the courts found they couldn't legally do that.

In addition to the most obvious source of video evidence, there are more and more surveillance-type cameras out there: the police dash cams, security systems in place at various businesses, red light cameras, traffic cameras, and so on. We aren't under quite as complete a security net of surveillance cameras as the British, but we're getting close.

So with cameras potentially everywhere and stories of bad behavior making the news on a regular basis, why do the police still behave as though no one is watching? I know part of the answer -- because even with video evidence showing some rogue LEO behaving like a sociopath prosecutors almost never bring charges and police departments are reluctant to discipline anyone -- but that's not always true. The cop in this most recent video, for example, has been indicted for second degree assault. So if it's becoming more common for there to be actual consequences, why do some cops behave as though they're still living in the last century, not current one? Good question. Maybe it just takes awhile for some people to get the message times have changed.

Side note: in one of those weird coincidences that make a person wonder if Jung was right about collective consciousness, just as I was finishing typing the above paragraph, NPR did a brief report on a new app for smart phones. It was developed by the ACLU in California specifically for use in filming police misconduct. So far over 40,000 people have downloaded the application. That in itself is rather troubling news because for sure it's evidence that there are a whole lot of people out there who are expecting the cops to do something Bad. It definitely shows whatever trust the public once had in law enforcement is rapidly eroding. Which brings me to the second question: when the institution of law enforcement going to realize they need to clean up their act? More and more ordinary people are starting to view law enforcement as The Enemy. That solid blue line that tends to behave as though no cop anywhere ever did anything bad had better start crumbling a bit and start to police itself better. As long as they keep mouthing the line that "Officer Sadistic Asshat did nothing wrong" when the video shows Officer Asshat beating someone to death (or close to it), the public's confidence in law enforcement is going to keep shrinking.

Of course, considering just how many cops (male and female) I've met over the years who apparently went into law enforcement specifically because they were sadistic asshats and got off on power tripping, I doubt  things will get better any time soon.

4 comments:

  1. Your last paragraph is right-on. I was a diver and did volunteer body and evidence retrieval for a Sheriff's department in Florida; and to a man and women they were losers with huge egos that flaunted their authority and reveled in carrying a sidearm.
    I might also mention that I went to the firing range with a group to qualify and they were horrible shots - It would have scared the hell out of me to have one behind me backing me up.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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  2. Giving the police military equipment encourages a military mindset. Police should protect and serve, the military is about combat: kill and defeat.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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  3. I always say I like Russia because the cops there will only kill you if someone pays them to while in america they will just for fun. Of course being beaten and arrested/jailed is another whole story. In Russia it is if you are even remotely anti-Putin. In America is breathing while black

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