Around the United States, a growing list of botched raids, and instances of police abuse, have painted a less-than-appealing portrait of an ever more military minded police force, and has fueled the increasingly negative perception of the police officer in general. The number of no-knock raids has increased dramatically, with more than 50,000 occurring in the last year alone. Citizens are told that we should fear “terrorists,” and we are persuaded by political figures to give up some of our essential liberties in the attempt at establishing some level of safety. Could the incorporation of cameras into police uniforms make us safer, or merely be used to further limit our liberty?
When individuals feel fear, it is understandable that they would be more willing to grant the government more authority and power, as seen with the Patriot Act and National Defense Authorization Act. However, you are less safe when you give up your liberty, and the current threat posed by terrorism does not warrant the current police state seen growing in the Western world. Putting aside the simple truth that the tactic of terrorism will never be able to be obliterated or permanently prevented, seeing as it is a method of action which any individual can choose whilst exercising their free will. Statistically an individual is more likely to die in a car crash, from heart disease, from cancer, by drowning, electrocution, or even from hot weather; the fear of terrorism is not warranted. Surprisingly, we are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by any terrorist.
With the rise in dramatic stories involving aggressive police actions, it has supported the premise that the police might end up making matters worse instead of helping. As was the case for Georgia resident Alicia Heron, after she recently called 911 emergency services seeking help for her husband, who was suffering from a diabetes attack, when the officers shot him even though he wasn’t posing an immediate threat to anyone. This is true as well for James Comstock, who had called authorities in order to ‘teach his [teenage] son a lesson’, only to later have them end up murdering his son in a hail of gunfire.
Understandably, the police de-escalate many domestic situations, and assist in preventing and stopping legitimate crimes such as human trafficking, theft, fraud and so on. However, it appears that instances of unwarranted police abuse against innocent and non-violent individuals continues to climb, One study, relying on publicly reported stories, found that police officers were three times more likely to murder a civilian than any concealed carry permit holder. It also appears that the growing trend of inadequate training should be partially to blame for the rise in abuses from those in positions of authority. More recently a 13 year old eighth grade student from California was shot to death by a Sonoma County Sheriff’s deputy, after the child was seen wielding a toy BB-firing replica of an AK-47 rifle.
In yet another shameful assault against Constitutional rights, authorities in New Mexico forced resident David Eckert to undergo several hospital tests, including a colonoscopy, multiple X-rays, and cavity search, because they believed he was concealing narcotics. No drugs were ever found, and Mr. Eckert has now filed a federal lawsuit against the police department and hospital, who cared enough to send Mr. Eckert the bill after they were finished with their violently invasive treatment. While some patients with pressing medical concerns can wait several months to finally receive a colonoscopy procedure, police witch-hunts seem to take priority. If one private citizen performed these acts against another, the state would refer to it as assault or rape, but because the actions are perpetrated by the state itself, they expect the citizens’ to endure.
With the ever growing incidence of questionable police actions and practices in general, the notion of self-responsibility in regards to protection of ones’ life and property, instead of relying on someone else to do it, is becoming consistently more popular. Especially when one takes into account that the Supreme Court has ruled that police officers are under no Constitutional duty to protect someone. Most often, the police will show up after a crime has been committed, and rarely ever arrive beforehand or during in order to protect the victim. There is also a pressing need for real oversight of police actions, since they understandably cannot be trusted to investigate themselves effectively. In situations where police officers have had their actions recorded, police complaints have dramatically reduced by 88 percent.
Some police departments have considered adopting further filming-procedures such as adding a camera to the police uniform attire. When sed, it led to a 60% reduction in the use of force. The cameras record officer interactions with civilians, an activity many within the nation are already actively taking part in, and which is more commonly referred to as Cop Blocking.
With this system, all of the videos are uploaded automatically to a central server that acts as a sort of evidence vault. Although police departments already film many of their daily activities, the success of the mini-cameras has led more departments to contemplate initiating the procedure.
Although there is much benefit to having further documented video footage of police interactions with the public, security and privacy concerns arise when considering who the information captured will be available to and for how long. It is also worth considering how long it might take for footage to be permanently removed which was not involved or relevant to any ongoing case, and its potential for incorporation in facial-recognition systems when the technology is fully mature.