Police to Wear Video Cameras

A South Carolina police officer was charged with murder for killing a man after shooting at him 8 times as he ran away. The shooting was captured by video on a cell phone and the video was published by the New York Times.

Unfortunately this is not the first time a situation like this has occurred. From the same BBC article:

US police: Controversial recent killings

April 2015: Walter Lamer Scott, 50, is shot eight times in South Carolina as he runs away from Officer Michael Slager. Mr Scott dies at the scene. The shooting is captured on video and Mr Slager is charged with murder.

December 2014: Jerame Reid, 36, is shot dead during a routine traffic stop in New Jersey. An officer claims Mr Reid was reaching for a gun, but video footage seems to suggest he was attempting to step out of the car, hands raised.

November 2014: Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, is shot dead in a playground by Cleveland police after a local resident reports he is pointing a gun at passers by. The gun turns out to be a toy. A grand jury will decide whether police will face charges.

August 2014: Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, is shot dead by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting leads to protests, first in Ferguson and later nationwide. A grand jury decides not to charge Mr Wilson.

July 2014: Eric Garner, an asthma sufferer, is stopped by police in New York and placed in a chokehold after refusing to be handcuffed. He dies despite repeatedly telling officers he cannot breathe. No police are charged.

March 2014: James Boyd, an unarmed homeless man camping in Alberquerque, is shot dead by two officers. Video of the incident leads prosecutors to say the officers acted with “deliberate intention” and they are charged.

As seen above, videos released of the incident have been a common thread. Often bystanders will become citizen journalists and film what is going on. Since Ferguson, police departments have considered adding body cameras to police officers as an extra method to combat speculation when incidents occur.

Carrboro is going to test the idea with a new body camera policy for Carrboro police, which is in the drafting process. But will it help?

Because of North Carolina law the police officers would not have to tell you the interactions were being recorded. Is that ethical? And what would happen to the videos? Would they become public information?

I think adding videos to police officers is the correct next step. People have already been videoing situations and then the video goes viral, fueling the fire. The cameras would be a helpful reminder to police that someone is always watching and a check on their actions. Eventually it would probably become common knowledge that police will be videoing you, but then people lose a sense of a right to privacy.

So where is the line drawn? Who gets to see the videos? Do they become public information such as police records?

Written in the DTH article about the Carrboro police, Alderwoman Michelle Johnson said, “Body cameras won’t address the issues of policing and racial profiling.”

Sadly, she’s probably right but it’s a step in the right direction to hopefully prevent further injustice situations from occurring.

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