Body cameras help capture truth for police
There has been a lot of talk lately over “police militarization” and the sudden influx of law enforcement brutality. Just recently, thousands of civilians on Staten Island, New York gathered to protest the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed man who was killed by an officer in an illegal chokehold for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
This past June, a man named Edgar Vargas Arzate was severely beaten by police in Santa Ana, California. Arzate had been running from the police, and though he was unarmed and surrendered, was still charged with assaulting an officer.
When looking it at it this way, it seems as though introducing body-mounted cameras for police might be a viable solution.
It started with a petition called the “Mike Brown Law” on the White House website, which requested police officers wear the cameras to record interactions. After getting the required 100,000 signatures, the plan sprang into action.
Though most agencies have been using vehicle-mounted cameras for quite some time, the recording is useless once the officer steps away from his or her car. The Sarasota Police Department has decided to become one of the few police departments in the country to wear the cameras.
Not only will this aid in preventing unnecessary violence, it will also provide a large portion of the evidence necessary during difficult trials and will help protect police officers against false accusations.
The idea of documented encounters could help calm the riots following Brown’s death and possibly ease the tension that traces even further back than the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
USF University Police Public Information Officer and Assistant Chief Christopher Daniel said the campus is waiting to see how the cameras work for other agencies before using them. Daniel said vehicle-mounted cameras have had a significant impact in distilling officer wrongdoings, and agreed the community definitely acts differently when being recorded.
It only makes sense to incorporate videos as support for police and civilian assertions and it’s a wonder this idea wasn’t taken into consideration sooner.
A study of California’s Rialto Police Department has already found that use of force significantly decreased when officers were asked to wear body cameras.
One of the only drawbacks is the cost of employing the cameras, but when taking into account the number of people who will feel safer with this law in place, it seems they are well worth the price.
In the last month alone, five unarmed black men have been killed by the police, according to the Huffington Post. Not to mention, the number of people killed in police-involved shootings is strangely unknown.
It seems necessary for something to be done about the protests over people such as Brown, regardless of whether police brutality was an actual issue in that specific case.
Apart from making citizens more trusting of their city police, it will make sure authorities don’t get destructive with their power or end up wrongly convicted.
Nataly Capote is a freshman majoring in mass communications.