Hold Them Accountable!

Anywhere and Anytime.

Having a badge should not be a Get Out of Jail Free card.

There are an estimated fifty million cameras throughout our country. The city of Chicago alone has over thirty thousand cameras watching every one of its citizens go about their day. These cameras monitor us every second of the day. For instance, when we’re heading to school or work, maybe even taking a stroll at the park.

With all this justifiable uproar happening due to more recognition of racial injustices, the question of how we should proceed still lingers. One of the main discussions being around police brutality. We once looked at police officers to help us. Now we’re looking at them to tell us why they haven’t. What actions are we going to take to ensure that equality, justice, and diversity are appreciated? Not just for the sake of our history lessons, but for our future to be built on a foundation of unity.

The lack of accountability that’s been displayed has been very troublesome. If the Black Lives Matter movement hadn’t been brought into the limelight, then who knows how many cops would’ve gotten away with these evident acts of racism. On August 9, 2014, witnesses saw Micheal Brown and Officer Darren Wilson getting into a heated exchange. Micheal Brown was only 18 years old when this happened. When describing what happened when Wilson shot Brown, some said Brown had his arms up while others said he was charging at Wilson. One thing that would’ve changed everything was if Officer Darren Wilson had a body camera on him, recording his behavior, actions, and what happened.

“Join with us in our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera.”

Now his family pushes to make personal body cameras a requirement for all officers.

Contrary to their efforts, only two states in the US require all law enforcement personnel to use body cameras. Cameras that are there to document interactions with citizens to make sure that all officers are being trustworthy and acting with integrity. Why is this not being pushed into the public? While cities like Chicago claim to require all patrol officers to use body cameras, an investigation done by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) shows that they didn’t even have a process in place that required them to review the actual footage that was recorded.

Cops are supposed to be rule-abiding and law-enforcing. If that’s the case, why are people so opposed to the idea? Not everything is going to be shared with the public. Only the encounters with civilians need to be publicized to display what unjust events took place. With over thirty thousand cameras already watching Chicagoans to ensure everyone’s safety, why is it we don’t have one following police officers who are enforcing the law each day?

Opponents of this argument claim that the use of body cameras infringes on people’s privacy, but then again, privacy isn’t an issue when a cop tells an innocent black man to step out of his car for no apparent reason. Or when policies such as stop-and-frisk make it “okay” and “excusable” for officers to profile people and paint them suspicious because they look a certain way. Where is the privacy in these situations?

In most of these scenarios, cops are basing their choices of whom to stop using the darkness of their skin as a determining factor to make that decision, whereas body cams are solely based on who owns a badge. If it’s your job to uphold the law and to keep people safe, why can’t we be able to see how you handled a situation and hold you accountable?  

Take the George Floyd situation. Would you be more likely to believe a cop or a jumbled witness who was too distraught to remember the details of what happened? If there wasn’t any video proof, would you have known that Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds with an additional 2 minutes and 53 seconds after Floyd was unresponsive? 

Or is, “approximately 12 minutes” good enough for you? 

If no one had documented that horrific scene, would we have known what exactly happened? No.

Would the cops paint the narrative to say that Floyd was resisting arrest? Probably.

Would we know the names of all the cops involved? No.

Would Floyd’s family get closure? No. 

Would Floyd get justice? No.

Cops knowing they have a body camera that will be reviewed is the equivalent of citizens walking or driving down the street and seeing a police car. Even if you know you’re doing nothing wrong, you’re still very cautious due to having someone in authority watching you. This fear guarantees that we are on our best behavior, and it makes sure everyone thinks twice about what they’re doing or how they’re going to handle a situation.

We need body cameras to be used by all law enforcement personnel at all times. Having this be a nationwide requirement will eliminate most he-said-she-said situations and replace them with undeniable video proof. We need to get started. We need to take action so that there will be trust, transparency, and accountability. 

So that there will be justice.   

Joanna Nar – The Latin School – DMSF

Photo by ev on Unsplash