Thoughts about police brutality

Some thoughts about the current political situation and how to most effectively address the issue of police brutality in the United States. My impression personally is that we’re seeing a major shift in popular opinion on this issue, and that significant factions within government at all levels are showing a willingness to address it seriously.

I think the federal government has shown an increased willingness to take serious steps to mitigate police violence. In December 2014 the congress passed a bill that requires states to keep track of all the people that cops kill.

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/hr1447

Also in that same month Obama announced federal money for the purpose of putting bodycams on police around the country.

http://www.theverge.com/2014/12/1/7314685/after-ferguson-obama-announces-funding-for-police-body-cameras

Localities have shown more willingness to prosecute. 2015 saw more cops charged with crimes and put on trial for their killings. Still, it was only 12 total nationwide.

http://www.aol.com/article/2015/09/24/more-police-officers-have-been-charged-over-civilian-killings-in/21240401/

Personally I can’t remember a time when I’ve seen this level of media focus on this issue, particularly the increased sympathy for victims and criticism of the cops. And that goes for general popular discussion and consciousness also.

I think that federal action holds the most potential power to save lives and prevent violence. Also we’ve seen recent action by both congress and Obama. I looked online and couldn’t find any current bills in congress that address this issue.

I might have missed something, but it strikes me that as concerned citizens we have an opportunity to propose and push forward a bill. My thought is to build on the bodycams that Obama is already promoting. Providing more funding for these is a good step. Creating guidelines for their use, including mandated reporting to DOJ would also help to build a habit of transparency as well as a database of evidence for any local trials or lawsuits.

One article I read cautioned that cameras may not lead to increased trust between police and citizens. I think that another important element could be funding for community events that include police. In this way it would provide an incentive to community organizations to invite police to be part of what they are doing. I think this could help ease the increased tension and pressure on police introduced by cameras. It could also help direct resources toward community organizations. And this proposal would take the teeth out of right-wing criticisms that the liberals hate the police, because here the bill is actually encouraging liberal non-profits to include police in their work.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts about police brutality

  1. Did you hear about Linwood Lambert in Virginia (http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/driven-hospital-virginia-man-tased-shackled-and-dies-police-custody)? Even with cameras watching, the police still acted abominably. It could be argued that they weren’t aware of the cameras, though that seems unlikely.

    I wonder if having a personal camera puts more emphasis on your own actions. In MSNBC’s report it seemed like the police were acting with a group mentality. It’s interesting to think if how we position surveillance devices makes a difference. On a somewhat relevant tangent, I’m reminded of how people will act more prosocially if a picture of ‘watching eyes’ is around.

    Yet, the police officers did have the ‘watching eyes’ of their fellow officers. Perhaps the difference is the affiliation of the eyes? Would it make a difference if a picture of your own eyes was watching you in contrast to the stock photo of a stranger’s? What of your best friend’s or your mom’s eyes? To be effective, I think the body cameras need to be seen as the public’s eyes–not a piece of police equipment.

    We need to trust our officers to keep us in line and our officers need to trust us to do the same for them.

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    • Hey Amanda, yeah I saw a link to the video on facebook. I didn’t watch it. I’ve seen and heard enough real life horror :-/

      I did some web surfing to research this post. It seems there’s maybe one study indicating that cameras do reduce police violence. I think there’s not a lot of academic research– bodycams are a fairly new practice as far as I know. I do find it interesting that many police are saying they are afraid to do their jobs because of all the cameras (iphones, etc) so they are admitting that it inhibits them.

      I love your idea of being watched by one’s own eyes! That’s not big brother. Or even little brother. It’s like inner brother 🙂

      In seriousness though, yes I think inner brother is what we all need. I like the way you say it “the body cameras need to be seen as the public’s eyes–not a piece of police equipment.”

      Like

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