Ferguson in pictures


I would love it if something constructive were to emerge from this outrage. Specifically, I’d love it if lapel and dash cams were mandatory for all armed police. You carry a weapon? Fine, you carry a camera too.

No, it won’t fix everything, it won’t touch many of the systemic problems,but it’s actionable, it’s easy to understand, and it would counter some of the accountability problems that plague military and quasi-military organizations.


Cool idea, but easily gameable. What happens when these cameras malfunction? When the video is lost during transfer, or some other glitch destroys it? These “accidents” happen with existing forms of evidence whenever it’s convenient, and there’s nothing to stop accidents happening to incriminating police footage.

That’s the crux of the problem. There’s not actually any counterbalance to the power and authority of the police department. So you can make rules for them to follow (for example the Bill of Rights), and they’ll dutifully agree to abide by them. You want them to wear cameras? Ok sure, no problem. But when push comes to shove and they break your rules, what will you do? What are the consequences for a police department - or a government in general - when they refuse to submit to the will of the public?

True, but just because they sometimes, even often, break rules doesn’t mean that they’d always break this one. Especially if they were held accountable for missing footage.

What I’m saying is “what does accountability really mean in the face of such a dramatic power imbalance?”

I think the idea that police abuse can be legislated away is mistaken, because the very system of law and regulation is heavily tilted to advantage the police and associated institutions. Poor black people tend not to have access to even existing means of accountability, which is why it’s so rare to hear about a case like Michael Brown’s, even though we know it happens regularly.

The folks in his neighborhood did not have access to high-powered lawyers and state senators; the people who can use that regulatory system to wield actual power. The only power they have access to is rioting. Were it not for the exercise of that power, we wouldn’t even be talking about accountability in Ferguson.

I wish it was a simple as changing some laws, but as long as that power imbalance exists, the de jure rules are fundamentally different from the de facto ones.

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Yes, agreed, but short of a revolution (since that sure ain’t gonna happen any time soon), what more than better rules and laws and stricter insistence on adherence to them are you actually calling for?

What happens is the same thing that happens when a black box goes wonky, or the recording system for 911 develops glitches: People fix it.

Right now police are expected to cover each other’s asses in the most routine and mundane lies every day. To rat out a fellow police officer means you may not get any backup should you really need it.

Dash cams and lapel cams every day for every call, would provide a whole 'nother layer of witness beyond the blue wall of silence we experience today. Like I said, it would not be perfect: it would be better than what we’ve got now. Frequent, convenient equipment glitches would occasionally overlap with citizen’s cell phone video, and then you’ve got an additional charge of tampering with evidence. We’ve already got plenty of surveillance equipment pointed at regular people, we need more ways to point the cameras back at the watchers.


Let’s go a step further.

Camera conveniently failed to record during that last bust? Case automatically dismissed, with prejudice.

Your camera only recorded half of your last shift? No problem. But don’t expect to get paid for those hours.

Basically, let’s have the cameras, and some meaningful teeth behind their actually functioning.

While we’re at it, let’s have a long hard look at qualified immunity.


The poster for police non-accountability could be a pic of an officer with a black mask on and name tag covered.
Also (see various Occupy Oakland video) police often like to do the nasty stuff under the cover of darkness so they can’t be photographed and held accountable (hello: ir camera!). You can be sure that police already have counter measures for protester quad-copter cams, be it radio jamming or shotgun.


We’ll need to equip all young black men in America with lapel cameras. Between them and the cop’s camera one of them should work.


You know, it’s absolutely true. Outlets like FOX and Breitbart (ugh) are reporting that Brown had performed a strongarm robbery and walked out of the store with a box of Swisher Sweets. Ten minutes later, he was fatally shot by an officer who was apparently not aware of the robbery, but had been called because Brown and his friend (who has confirmed the robbery) were literally walking down the street. Brown was allegedly shot when he stuck his head in the police car.

And whatever you do, don’t read the comments on Breitbart unless you have a strong stomach for racist bullshit.

The thing is, it’s literally the officer’s word against…well, the friend, because the suspect is dead. They would have captured it on dashcam if they had installed the still-boxed dashcams. So we have no freaking clue if Brown was the “gentle giant” that some media has reported, or the brutish thug that other outlets have already painted him to be.

And all this ignores a whole slew of socioeconomic factors that lead up to events like these, or why the town of Ferguson was such a powderkeg, and who thought it was a good idea to have a show of force like that in response?

Having grown up in a predominantly white small town that nevertheless had a fairly high poverty rate, I “get” part of what leads a guy to rob somebody over a box of cigars. And having heard the white side of racism all my life, I guess I do better than a lot of white folks. But only part of it.


That is very true. But rather than ask the cops to film themselves (which is reminiscent of the way we ask police departments to investigate themselves), we need that function to rest directly in the hands of the people. We need civilians to film the cops - wherever they are, whatever they’re doing.

I trust my neighbor with a smartphone over a police car dashcam any day.

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It’s hard to make any sense of these allegations that Brown stole some cigars from the corner store. If true, he deserved to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law… which we expect involves judges and lawyers and juries, and for a misdimeanor offense, probably wouldn’t get jail time.

That some… uniformed thug should take it on himself to shoot this guy in the back 8 times for the crime of walking in the street- relates to the stolen cigars in no way whatsoever. And that those cops seem to think this is relevent (without releasing the incident report?) just adds to the outrage, along with pointing guns at protesters.


The latest non-violent protest tactic, raising your hands and shouting “Don’t shoot!” seems to have crossed a threshold of tactical usefulness. Gandhi and MLK were, if nothing else, pioneers of non-violent tactics of protest.


Or maybe he was just, you know, a guy. I know you’re not suggesting otherwise, but he didn’t have to be a “gentle giant”–or even a nice person–to make executing him in the street an almost unimaginable overreaction to nearly anything he could have been doing.


TBH, as a lifelong resident of the region, they’re black and they live in St. Louis, Missouri and are reliant on the white folks for jobs.

I have to learn to be more explicit, because we totally agree, which makes the aggro response somewhat irrelevant.

Didn’t mean to be aggro–I figured we were agreeing. I just wanted to make the point explicit myself.

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You weren’t “aggro”.

Moderator’s day off today?

Is it everyone’s day off from not pressing the Flag button?

Moderation belongs to everyone in the community, it is not the exclusive province of the anointed few (or in this case, one?). We put a trash can on every street corner, but you have to make use of them. Certainly a better use of effort than replying to a troll.