A Succinct and Undeniable Case for Police Body Cameras
The topic of body cameras for police has been hot and strangely misunderstood for the last couple of years. There is plenty of debate about the subject, but the only semi-rational objection to them would be cost. Rather than go into a long thesis on the ethical and logistic elements of the debate, let’s look at the basic logic that surrounds it.
In other words, let’s appeal to common sense.
Video Works Well in Court
If there’s one conundrum to the objections, it’s that the police and politicians try to ignore the humongous benefits associated with police body cameras as it pertains to doing their job. The best evidence that can be used to convict someone in a court of law is video. Eyewitness testimony can be flawed and easily refuted. Physical evidence can be tainted or misinterpreted. Video evidence is the easiest way to convict someone .
Video Puts Focus on the Moral Compass
Unlike many who do not like the police, I understand that their jobs are not always black and white. The stresses put on law enforcement are the kind that other people never have to face. As a result, the are often faced with decisions that require the moral compass. Unfortunately, they’re human, which means their moral compass can be faulty sometimes.
Walter Scott would likely be alive today if former police officer Michael Thomas Slager has been wearing a body cam. He was captured on video that he didn’t know was being recorded shooting the fleeing suspect and then attempting to plant evidence to justify the shooting. His moral compass was off for that moment. A body cam would have prevented that.
Justification of Force
In this hyper-sensitive society, every time someone is hurt by police, it will be under scrutiny. Unlike days past, police must justify every physical action.
Most situations are not like the case of the horseback bandit who was beaten severely after clearly surrendering. In the majority of incidents where physical force is used on a suspect, it’s justified. Body cams could be used to justify them. We would likely never know the phrase, “hands up, don’t shoot,” had a body camera been used, assuming the testimony heard by the grand jury is truthful. Witnesses testified that Michael Brown reached for former officer Darren Wilson’s gun and then turned on him after a foot chase. If that is true, then a body camera would have justified the shooting and prevented a tremendous amount of controversy as well as property damage in Ferguson, MO.
Make this Happen
The law enforcement agencies in the United States need body cameras. This will help them. This will protect them. This will protect citizens. Unlike times past, the technology is available and it’s not terribly expensive. This needs to happen as soon as possible.