Thursday, December 4, 2014

What's the Point of Police Body-Cams in a Post-Eric Garner World?

You would need to be living under a rock to not know that there was no indictment connected to the police chokehold death of Eric Garner. Officer Daniel Pantalo got away with choking a man on camera and then smiling and waving on camera while Garner lay unresponsive and on the verge of death.

Which calls the question:

Seriously. What's the point of police body cameras if they can kill you on video and get away with it?

Body cameras are supposed to be a major tool for bringing more accountability to our local police departments. But then Eric Garner gets choked to the point of no return by Officer Daniel Pantalo and all he needs to do with go in front of the grand jury and give an impassioned speech about how bad he feels and how fearful he was of his safety at the time. Case closed.

Police officer chokes a man to death on video? No problem.

Another set of cops shoot down an unsuspecting Walmart shopper on video. The guy was talking on his cell phone and holding a toy gun that he'd picked up within the store and planned to purchase. Another customer called 911 and falsely claimed that Mark Crawford III was pointing his weapon at other customers. This was completely contradicted by security footage. The police shot Crawford dead. Another customer died from a heart attack because of the mayhem surrounding the police shooting. Neither cop was indicted, nor -- as far as I can tell -- was the 911 caller who blatantly lied to the dispatcher.

12-year-old Tamir Rice was just killed by a "rookie" cop in Cleveland, OH, after a 911 caller phoned about a kid with a likely toy gun playing in the nearby park. The police quickly showed up and shot Tamir. They initially claimed that he ignored three verbal commands to raise up his hands and instead pulled out a toy gun and caused them to fear for their safety. They later learned of nearby security footage and showed them gunning down Tamir. He was gunned down within two seconds of their arrival. He barely had time to comprehend their three verbal commands within that time-frame, much less pull out a gun and point it at them. This was all caught on video and I have absolutely no confidence that either cop will be found criminally responsible.

Once again, what's the point of body cameras? It just upsets the public even more because we can watch the police demonstrate excessive and deadly force from start to finish without any ambiguity and it means nothing. At least there's ambiguity with the Michael Brown shooting. There is none with Eric Garner or Mark Crawford or even Tamir Rice.

The law enforcement community needs to rethink its shoot-first-cover-up-later approach soon. Their reputation and our safety depends on it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The police are an army of the rich and if you're black in the USA, they don't care about you, obviously. I wouldn't look for too many improvements, unless people actually start showing up to vote. And after this year's midterms, I really wouldn't look forward to positive change.