Georgina Guedes

Get cops on camera - permanently

2015-04-10 09:31

Georgina Guedes

There is growing pressure for police in the United States to wear body cameras, given further credibility by the killing of Walter Scott by South Carolina police officer Michael Slager.

Unusually for killings by cops in the United States, this one has resulted in Slager being dismissed from his job and charged with murder. To which I say, about bloody time.

Over the past year, I have watched in astonishment as American law enforcement officials have gotten off Scot free time and again after killing human beings for the crime of, as far as I can work out, leaving the house while being black.

The names we now all know so well, thanks in large part to the #blacklivesmatter movement (please, please don’t tell me #whitelivesalsomatter) – Michael Brown and Eric Garner – are just the tip of the iceberg of over 1 000 people killed by the police in the States in 2014.

Daniel Pantaleo and Darren Wilson – Garner’s and Brown’s killers respectively – were both not indicted by grand juries, meaning that they were never even tried for their crimes.

Strap on the cameras

Given that there is a fair proliferation of this kind of behaviour by the US police force, I think the introduction of body cameras would be a cracking idea.

We know what happened in both the Scott and Garner killings because of recordings by civilians, and while this only resulted in indictment in one of their cases, that’s better than nothing at all.

Since the threat of indictment does very little to dissuade the police from shooting black men – probably because of the extreme unlikelihood of this ever actually happening (seriously, WTF?), perhaps the knowledge that their every action is being recorded will be helpful.

And I can’t think of a single reason why having a body camera would constrain a police officer from carrying out his duties as he should.

Another good reason

At the same time, there’s another very good reason for police to wear body cameras, and that is that in the majority of cases, I believe they’re actually really good okes who are doing their best to protect and serve – in South African and the United States.

So despite the bad name that police officers have from the publicity around their evil and corrupt actions, there is a great deal of undocumented good being done by the police force in both countries. Having a permanent record of these actions would make it possible to celebrate the good.

While the budget for this kind of roll-out could probably be found in the United States, we’re miles away from being able to afford this in South Africa (although we find the money for presidential residences and jets), but I think it be worth considering (private sector sponsorship, anyone?).

After all, what organisation that upholds the law couldn’t benefit from a built-in truth machine to keep them honest?

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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