This is where, in a better world, legislatures would step in and pass laws stipulating how to control body cam footage, and when it can be withheld from the public (almost never, hopefully). But they won’t because Tough On Crime typically gets more votes than Defund the Police, Bail Reform, Criminal Justice Reform, Black Lives Matter, and ACAB. NYC is a perfect example. They were making some reforms, including bail reform, and then Eric Adams comes in, tells NYC that crime is out of control but he can get it back under control, and here we are.
In the words of the pro-police, Thin Blue Line, “Tough on Crime” types who oppose any and all efforts at even the slightest modicum of police oversight and champion unconstitutional searches and surveillance of any person for any reason (but particularly brown people!), if you’ve done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to hide.
I’ll never forget how my local city’s police union warned its members (publicly!) to be against bodycams because they provide evidence against police breaking the law.
“You cannot just … say you are innocent and not have to prove it”
I didn’t get the through line, other than a no and a having the review board let go rather than be responsive to citizenry, and the brinksmanship working at JD level just not happening? Also not a lot of breaking form at the police.
Abolitionists warned us: pouring money into policing just expands surveillance, violence, and control. Even if they sound good – body cams, civilian review boards, “community policing,” more training – such reforms mean more money, power, and legitimacy for police.
Cory had a great take on this on his site Pluralistic.
Anything that can’t go on forever will eventually stop. When American patience for racial profiling in traffic stops reached a breaking point, cops rolled out dashcams. Dashcam footage went AWOL, or just recorded lots of racist, pretextual stops. Racial profiling continued.
Tasers and pepper spray were supposed to curb the undue use of force by giving cops an alternative to shooting dangerous-seeming people. Instead, we got cops who tasered and sprayed unarmed people and then shot them to pieces.
Next came bodycams: by indelibly recording cops’ interactions with the public, body-worn cameras were pitched as a way to bring accountability to American law-enforcement. Finally, police leadership would be able to sort officers’ claims from eyewitness accounts and figure out who was lying. Bad cops could be disciplined. Repeat offenders could be fired.
Police boosters insist that police violence and corruption are the result of “a few bad apples.” As the saying goes, “a few bad apples spoil the bushel.” If you think there are just a few bad cops on the force, then you should want to get rid of them before they wreck the whole institution. Bodycams could empirically identify the bad apples, right?
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