By JOSH PARRIS
With the turmoil of riots in Ferguson and now new unrest in North Charleston, S.C., the occurrence of police brutality in our society appears to be increasing drastically. However, this problem has been just as prevalent in our nation’s history. Accusations of police brutality have been reported for a long time, and with the increased availability of cameras, these actions are now being seen by the world.
Mary Edmond, the assistant sociology professor at Piedmont College specializes in the critique of police work.
Edmond said, “In the advent of the internet with easily-shot video and easily-posted video, there is a wider and quicker audience for those types of stories that are not filtered through other media. They don’t have to be filtered through other media to reach people and for people to decide whether it is problematic or not.”
The use of video evidence has played a large role in a recent brutality case located in North Charleston, S.C. This event occurred on April 4 where, according to the New York Times and many other news sources, an unarmed man was shot and killed after attempting to run away from the officer. A video supplied by a witness captures the police officer shooting the man eight times in the back without warning as the man ran away from the officer.
The officer, Michael Slager, initially claimed he fired his weapon in self-defense, but after a cellphone video of these unfolding events was released, he was fired and charged with murder. Although not all of the accusations of police brutality are as clear as this one, they have illuminated a reoccurring motif in law enforcement.
One suggested solution to this problem is the use of body cameras, which is currently being implemented in the New York Police Department. The notion behind this use of technology is that if all officers wear body cameras, it will authenticate the actions of police officers.
Edmond said, “Whenever there is an audience to an encounter, police officers are more likely to act in prescribed ways. They are less likely to use discretion and are more likely to play it ‘by the book,’ if you will, so a body-worn camera adds that simulated witness that encourages a greater and more prescribed approach.”
The Office of Justice Programs Diagnostic Center did a study on body cameras used in law enforcement that validated Edmond’s point. There qualitative studies showed that “officers without cameras were more likely to use force without having been physically threatened.”
The implementation of this technology does raise a few red flags with some. These cameras would infringe on both the officers and citizens privacy, and their uses would have to be heavily regulated. If these cameras were to be used nationwide, it would also call for new training and more funding.
According to Edmond, even though the implementation of body cameras may be a step in the right direction, it will take much more to end this problem for good. To find the ideal solution that will end police brutality, one must approach the situation abstractly and find its true origin. However, there isn’t just one cause to this problem. It is multidimensional and is caused by many dysfunctional structures in our society. Our society tends to want to place the blame on one entity or group of people, but that shouldn’t be the perspective we take.
Edmond said, “It can’t just be an individual solution. It has to be one that considers each level of our society.”