As the awful events of the past few days continue to play themselves out we are presented with a unique opportunity to allow this to be a turning point in our country in how law enforcement interacts with citizens and how it is held accountable.
Nothing that can be done will ever be enough to allay the grief of the family members who lost a loved one that day but we can hopefully give them some sense of comfort knowing that their loss, their tragedy will help prevent something like this from happening again. Every police officer in the country should be required to wear a camera that automatically records any interaction an officer has with a potential suspect. We could call it the Michael Brown Law.
We’ve already stood by and watched as local police departments have armed themselves to the teeth with tanks and automatic weapons. Surely the can afford lapel cams for each of their officers. For counties or districts that truly cannot find it in the budget then state or federal funds can be found to make it happen.
We all live in an environment where we are told to get used to being recorded. Many of us work at places that monitor us on some level the entire time we are at work. Why should the police, whom we are trusting with our lives, be any different? So many of these tragedies could be averted, or explained, if there was an actual recording of what happened and not just a one-sided story that leaves us all with too many questions.
There are a few cases where police departments have started wearing cameras and in every single case it has resulted in less violence and fewer community complaints. In Rialto, Ca. after cameras were introduced in February 2012, public complaints against officers plunged 88% compared with the previous 12 months. Officers’ use of force fell by 60%.
“When you know you’re being watched you behave a little better. That’s just human nature,” said Tony Farrar, Rialto’s police chief. “As an officer you act a bit more professional, follow the rules a bit better.”
What’s happening in Ferguson is devastating and unimaginable to many of us. We have the technology to make sure that this is the last time an unarmed young man is shot while leaving far too many questions. It’s affordable, wearable technology that could be distributed and set up to every law enforcement officer in the country within months and there is no reason for us not to stand up and demand that it happen. Demand accountability. Any cop that is honest and doing their job, to protect and serve, should be the first ones to want this technology to protect themselves from situations exactly like this.
No, this shooting of an unarmed man by a police officer with little to no context or accountability isn’t the first time but we could certainly make sure that it is the last time and there’s absolutely no reason why every citizen, sheriff, county official shouldn’t stand up now and demand that the Michael Brown Law put an end to this injustice.