Police Brutality Doesn’t Have to be the Norm in Virginia or Anywhere
August 15th 2014
by Sara Gaborik
In light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, many are seeking ways to safeguard their community against police brutality. Sadly, there are members of law enforcement who abuse their power and use excessive force. In over a decade of practice, I have seen countless cases involving police brutality but as a whole, most officers do not take advantage of their position. However, officers who do are typically habitual offenders. The number one solution is to demand that all law enforcement wear body cameras when on duty. Studies show that when encounters with the public are recorded, incidents of police brutality become almost non-existent. In Rialto, California, a year-long study showed an 88% decrease in complaints filed since their police force instituted body cameras. Just this week, in response to recent cases of brutality and an opinion from a Federal Court case suggesting this as a solution to 4th Amendment violations as well, NYC officials proposed all law enforcement wear body cameras.
Law enforcement and prosecutors alike should be banging down the doors of City Hall demanding funding for this valuable tool. Imagine how effective a prosecution could be with the judge, jury, and Defendant seeing firsthand the actions that led to a stop and arrest. Yet neither side is pushing for officers to wear cameras – in fact, some localities are vocally against the practice. But why? The only answer is that both are fully aware body cameras would end the practice of effectuating arrests using illegal tactics. Using cameras would mean no more 4th Amendment violations swept under the rug, no more falsifying alleged statements, no more exaggeration of alleged actions by the Defendant, and no more downplaying the use of force in used to make the arrest.
If we want communities to trust those who are there to protect and serve, then there needs to be transparency in everything that they do. Incidents like the one that occurred in Ferguson would no longer occur at the alarming rate they are now, and if things do happen, there would be no question whatsoever about who did what. Officers should welcome this technology as a tool in combatting false claims of police brutality or in instances of officer-involved shootings. My brother-in-law was recently involved in such a scenario and was completely cleared of any wrongdoing by his body camera, which he voluntarily opted to wear. His rationale in requesting the camera in the first place was he had nothing to hide. He is extremely thankful for his foresight and continues to wear his camera daily.
In the long run, body cameras will create a stronger support of law enforcement within the communities they police and be a cost effective tool for the prosecution of crimes. As a Nation, we should demand that all law enforcement be required to wear body cameras and that all law enforcement vehicles be equipped as well. Once we develop this kind of transparency, we can rebuild trust in those sworn to protect and serve and begin to have a true system of Justice that holds everyone involved responsible, no matter which side of the aisle they sit on.