Police Body Cams: Sad Commentary on Real Life
Technology is both a wonderful thing and a bit of a curse. The internet allows us to have all the knowledge in the world at our finger tips, yet we tend to wallow in the shallow and the meaningless. Computers can calculate almost anything, but mostly we use them to play youtube videos about cats. One of the supposedly good things to come of course has been digital cameras, which along with tiny memory chips, allowed for cameras in police cars – which lead to a whole business of “caught on camera” TV shows. More recently, the technology has gotten so good that some police now have body cameras, literally wearing a camera that records everything they say and do while on duty.
Many people believe this is needed. They feel that many of the current flash points between police and the citizens they serve and protect would be resolved is the unblinking eye of the camera is there in all cases. Mike Masnick from Techdirt is one of those who regularly beats this drum, often a little too loudly, begging for police to be forced to wear these things so that we can “police the police” as it were. Recently, a story on his site called Body Cam Footage Clears Police Officer Of Bogus Sexual Assault Allegations (link) is one of those “see, it’s good for you!” stories that makes me laugh. It also makes me sad, in part because Mr Masnick chose once again to ignore the bigger story.
The need for police body cameras is due to a lack of personal responsiblity. It starts early and it invades all of our life, let me start you off with this cartoon:
It perhaps best sums up how things have changed in the last 30 years. We have gone from a society where the parents and the teachers worked together to improve students and make them take personal responsibility for their grades into a society where it can’t be the kids fault, clearly the teacher is at fault. The parents don’t accept their part, the student doesn’t accept their part, and instead it’s the fault of the person who is trying the hardest to make a difference.
Police face this every day. The story from Techdirt is about a girl trying to get out of getting arrested by claiming the officer is sexually molesting her. That action shows a total lack of personal responsibility, and a weird acceptance that “getting out of something” and making someone else take the fall is perfect and normal. Yes, the camera helps in this case, as she was claiming to be attacked when the officer wasn’t even close to her. I think it’s sad because it shows how far as a society that we have declined.
Another example Is this insane video of a suspect in police custody, walking along with an officer on either side, at least until he sees the news cameras. Cue the “getting out of something” music, because suddenly he goes from walking normally (in cuffs) to lying on the ground complaining about his back and no doubt heading towards claiming police brutality. For me, it’s no different than a cheating football player taking a dive when nobody is near him, or claiming to be hurt in the face when someone bumped him on the arm. In football, they get a yellow card (and sometimes a red card) for that, kicked out of the game. Why do we as a society tolerate this stuff in the real world?
As much as I dislike using a racial broadbrush or to call any group out, I have to say that enough people realize there is a lack of personal responsibility with the arrival of the “Dindu Nuffins” Meme. Dindu is the mythical son of the (generally a black, inner city) mother who, after finding her son dead or in hospital as a result of a run in with the law, says to the news cameras “my boy was a loving son, so sweet, he Dindu Nuffin!”. This usually plays against either a long arrest record, a gun (and drugs) on his person, or perhaps getting stopped in a stolen car or in the middle of committing a crime. The mothers have a huge blind spot that makes them think their sons aren’t doing anything, contrary to all obvious evidence. The communities often turn aggressive towards police and that leads to more arrests, more confrontation, and more harm done on both sides. Police cameras are NOT going to change this, because there is a serious disconnect between what is going on and what the people want to see. They accept no personal responsibility for the situations that lead up to the confrontations with police, and they want police to eat it every time they resist arrest, smart mouth, and generally act out in front of the law.
Before anyone suqeals “that’s Racist!”, let me say that the same story plays out in the towns and cities all over the US. Thousands of claims of police harassment and abuse are lodged every year all over the US, from people in all walks of life. Perhaps yes, body cameras might stop some of this stupidity. However, it’s sad to think that as a society and as a people, we are unable to control ourselves and “man up” for what we do. We don’t take personal responsibility for what we do, we blame others, we blame the system, the person running the system, the rich person next door, the poor person down the street… we never consider what it is that we do that adds to the problem.
Body cameras aren’t a cure – they are a symptom.