The great proliferation of cell phones and other portable electronic devices have paralleled the proliferation in cases of police brutality. There is a direct correlation here; citizens now have a quick and easy method of documenting police behavior.
How many deaths and injuries were caused by police in the not-too-distant past, and they got away with it because there were no reliable witnesses? In fact, a completely bogus report was about to be released in the case of South Carolina cop Michael Slager, who shot Walter Scott eight times in the back. The local media had been ready to release a description of the event cooked up by the police department. According to Officer Slager, “The suspect was fighting with me, trying to grab my Taser. I had to defend myself. I had to shoot.”
But before this propaganda was made public, the cell phone video was released. We see a man running away; we see the cop very deliberately take aim: we see and hear the cop fire his weapon eight times. Mr. Scott was given instant capital punishment for running away from the police.
The video continues and we see Michael Slager engaged in a few strange behaviors – retrieving something, throwing something – and we can’t help thinking he’s covering his tracks, rearranging the evidence. This is the behavior of a hit man, but he wears the uniform of the police.
I saw another video of a cop going berserk because a nearby woman was filming his arrest. This cop – big and armed to the teeth – went after that woman, tore her phone out of her hand and threw it on the sidewalk. Then he stomped on it a few times, all the while cursing the woman in a loud voice. Of course, this cop wasn’t aware that someone else across the street was also filming on his phone.
Urban centers in the U.S. are covered with cameras rolling twenty-four hours a day – inside the stores and buildings, on the streets, and the millions of cell phones in the hands of citizens. We lament this intrusion and loss of privacy. On the other hand, we applaud the possibilities in exposing corruption and crime among our “public servants.” The surveillance devices of Big Brother can cut both ways.