EDITORIAL: Bigger picture of police brutality
Implementation of body cameras does not solve everything
Earlier this year, Rutgers University made attempts to more closely monitor its police force with the implementation of body cameras. Rutgers campuses, including Camden, New Brunswick and Newark, began requiring its police officers to wear standard-issue equipment. Kenneth Cop, the chief of the Rutgers University Police Department (RUPD), believed that having these body cameras would have a “positive impact” on the relations between the police force and the community. A few months after this, the Rutgers University Student Assembly (RUSA) and RUPD collaborated to install security cameras on off-campus sites so as to ensure that police could oversee any crimes that were occurring near campus. At the time, the Rutgers community, as well as others, approved this decision and saw it as Rutgers’ way of ensuring that even the police department was being kept in check. This was especially true after other states began removing possibilities of monitoring police, like when North Carolina issued a law that blocked police footage from being released to the public. But with the recent shooting of a New Jersey man from Bridgeton — where citizens of South Jersey are currently demanding the investigation of the police officer who killed him — the overall effectiveness of body cameras and police monitoring has been thrown into question.
After colleges like Kean University and Rowan University put body cameras for police into action, Rutgers followed suit. But was this an honest attempt at bettering the safety and reliability of the police to the community, or was it merely throwing a bone to those who have been protesting police brutality for years? This may be difficult to determine, but what can be answered is whether these cameras are actually reliable.
A New York Times investigation looked into the perception of body cameras. It provided its readers with two videos. The first video is from the point of view of the officer wearing the body camera, and depicts violent movements from the person in front of the officer, in a threatening manner. But the reader is then shown the actual video from the point of view of someone looking at the encounter just to reveal that what appeared to be a violent interaction was merely a person dancing with the officer. Although it is highly unlikely that anyone would ever dance with a police officer on duty, it raises some troubling realizations.
The problem with the University's implementation of body cameras is not based on its intention. It is possible that this idea came from efforts to try and hold police officers more accountable for their actions. The problem lies in the fact that sometimes the use of body cameras or dashboard cameras, or even cameras from bystanders, does not result in any repercussions. Sandra Bland was found dead in jail three days after being pulled over and arrested. Even though she was pulled over for “improperly signaling a lane change,” there is video of her arrest including audio of Bland complaining about the officer slamming her head on the ground. There was no conviction. The murder of Eric Garner was caught on tape and no convictions were made until two years later, even though the video depicted Garner repeatedly telling the officers that he could not breathe.
Getting body cameras may be a step in the right direction but it is nowhere near enough, especially if they can misconstrue images, and even clear images have not been considered enough proof for convictions. It’s not about what you might happen to record — it’s about what you do with it.
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