Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 5:42 AM

Clarion Call for Body Cameras to Check Bad Cops

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Police Officer Fatal ShootingGiven media coverage of the killing last summer of Eric Garner in New York, New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, coupled with coverage of the killing last week of Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina and Eric Harris in Tulsa, Oklahoma, you could be forgiven the impression that White cops think they are licensed to kill unarmed Black men; not least because these are hardly the only such incidents that occurred over this period.

But you should be encouraged that former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has added his very influential voice to the chorus of those calling on police departments across the country to require officers to wear body cameras.

Here is how the New York Post reported on his belated conversion in this respect in its Sunday edition:

Kelly had been skeptical about cops being fitted with cameras, claiming the devices might make the officers reluctant to take necessary, decisive action.

But Kelly said he rethought his position after shocking video emerged of Officer Michael Slager shooting Coast Guard veteran Walter Scott in the back after a traffic stop earlier this month in North Charleston, SC.

‘It has changed my mind [Kelly said] because we have to assume that this officer would not act the way he did if, in fact, he had a body camera that was recording.’

ralg-sharpton-kelly-jpgI could not agree more.

Law enforcement leaders like Kelly and civil rights activists like Al Sharpton are proposing a host of measures to monitor and, hopefully, control police behavior, especially when dealing with Black men. Conspicuously absent from their proposals, however, is any measure that addresses the need for Black men to control their behavior, especially when dealing with White cops.

By contrast, here is what I proposed — in this excerpt from “Killing of Michael Brown: as much about Resisting Arrest as Police Brutality (only against Black Men?),” August 12, 2014.

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Not every fatal shooting by the police of an unarmed man is a case of police brutality. We’ve all seen far too many incidents of people resisting arrest – even wresting away a policeman’s gun and killing him – just because they fear being questioned or arrested … even for something as simple as petty theft.

Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to cite a case that resulted in fatality, where the victim followed the few general rules we should all follow when dealing with the police. Those rules are:

  1. Do not run;
  2. Follow instructions calmly (i.e., no sudden moves that might spook a nervous or trigger-happy policeman);
  3. Wait for the police to explain why you’re being stopped before politely posing any objections, concerns, or questions you may have;
  4. If instructed to turn around to be frisked or handcuffed, comply without uttering a word; and
  5. Save any disagreements or arguments you may have for the courtroom or your civilian complaints review board, which is the only time and place to resist arrest.

This is why, even though the policemen who beat the crap out of Rodney King deserved to be prosecuted, (most of) that beating would have been avoided if King were not drugged out of his mind and, therefore, unable to follow simple police instructions…

It’s worth noting the direct correlation between police officers either wearing video cameras or videotaping every stop on dash cam and the dramatic decline not only in complaints by civilians, but also in use of force by the police. Frankly, it seems a no-brainer that every police department should make wearing body cameras as standard as wearing bulletproof vests…

[Not to mention that] there would be fewer of these fatal encounters between Black men and White cops if more (unemployed) Black men became cops to police their own communities.

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0 (6)I hope law enforcement leaders and civil rights activists take heed. But, more than them, I hope Black men do. After all, it’s arguable that, in every one of these cases, if the Black suspect had not resisted arrest, he would not have been shot, let alone killed. So, please, let’s be wary of making martyrs of them.

I fear that the lesson most young Black men are learning from this tragedy is that they can resist arrest – so long as they shout the newfangled slogan, ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ while doing so, or after failing to get the upper-hand. This will only lead to more of them ending up like Michael….

(“Why Chastise the ‘Times’ for Describing Michael Brown as ‘No Angel’? The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2014)

In the meantime, though, nothing makes the case for cameras as proposed quite like:

  • North Charleston prosecutors charging Michael Slager (the cop who killed Walter Scott) with first-degree murder as soon as a bystander’s video of his shooting went viral; and
  • Tulsa prosecutors charging Robert Bates (the “reserve” sheriff’s deputy who killed Eric Harris) with second-degree manslaughter as soon as police dash-cam and body-cam videos of his shooting went viral. This, incidentally, despite the 73-year-old Bates claiming that it happened only because he mistook his gun for his taser.

NOTE: I’m all too mindful that these notorious incidents of police brutality reinforce the self-immolating fiction in Black culture that all cops are pigs. A fiction, incidentally, that finds its most indoctrinating expression in popular rap music. Therefore, getting young Black men not only to see cops as heroes, but to join their ranks might be as challenging as finding a cure for cancer.

Nonetheless, just as researchers never cease in their fight to rid the human body of cancer, we must never cease in our fight to rid Black culture of this (anti-cop) fiction.

Related commentaries:
Killing of Michael Brown
Why chastise the Times

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