Cameras and the law / by kevin murray

Video cameras and pictures have changed history.  There is little doubt that when the civil rights activists were being fire hosed down, attacked/intimidated by police dogs, beaten by police batons, treated roughly; and all of this with contempt and disrespect by law enforcement, that in the end Middle America changed their viewpoint on civil rights from perhaps a general non-interest to a belief that this sort of lawless behavior by the law should not be tolerated in America.


When Rodney King suffered his beat-down, had it not be captured on video, he wouldn't even be a footnote to history.  Video and pictures help to even the score with those that are called to "serve and protect" us and that's a very fundamental point.  The fact of the matter is that there are so many laws, arbitrarily and capriciously enforced that any of us are subject to arrest at any time for virtually any reason.  Additionally, cops have all the weapons to enforce "their" law on the street and we seldom have the right to protect ourselves from this unwise enforcement of the law by police officers.


To help even up a very unfair playing field and with technology never having been better, why not make it a prerequisite that all officers of the law wear video cameras as a matter of policy.  Although some police officers and their superiors may initially object, I do believe that it is common sense that people behave better when they know they are being recorded and/or watched.  Police work is difficult, sometimes dangerous, and a video camera will help to show a complete perspective of their encounters.


If, in fact, police officers are upholding the law, and serving and protecting their community, wouldn't they be even more appreciated if videos were released attesting to that very behavior.  Over and over again, we hear that, we the public, shouldn't be afraid or leery of our privacy being violated, being watched, monitored, and tracked.  If that type of 'big brother' activity is OK for the government to engage in under the pretense of protecting its citizenry, then we as citizens should be able to monitor and watch police activity in our community.


Interaction with police ranges from total benevolence to something approaching a real horror show.  The more that we know about the real world in regards to police work and its consequences the more that we can appreciate the nuances and complexities of police activities. 


A safe public is an engaged and involved public.  The measure of a man is their decisions that are made under  trying circumstances, and those types of decisions have a great deal of impact in the community at large.  Police are our agents to help bring order, fairness, protection, service, and safety to our communities.  A good police officer is someone that can perform at a level that ensures the public that their best interests are in mind.  Video cameras are an important and critical crosscheck to help verify that we the people remain the cornerstone of our democratic society.