For a long time any brutality incidents between police and citizens could be hung up in court as a matter of “he said, she said.” Who do you think usually wins out in such a lopsided struggle?
Over half of U.S. citizens now own or will own a smartphone by the end of this year. As it happens, citizen filming is also on the rise and might be having some effect on police brutality claims leveled at the NYPD.
Matt Agorist of Free Thought Project writes:
New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board is an independent agency that is empowered to receive, investigate, mediate, hear, make findings, and recommend action on complaints against New York City police officers. According to the CCRB, nearly half (45%) of all claims of brutality and excessive force of NYPD cops have been substantiated by video in the first six months of 2015.
This increase is an 11% jump from 2014 alone.
According to the agency, surveillance and cellphone videos have also helped substantiate 21% of the overall complaints filed with the CCRB so far this year — the highest rate since the agency’s creation in 1993.
Agorist also points out some caveats that this writer has noted too. For instance, the police chokehold death of Eric Garner was filmed for the world to see – yet a grand jury failed to get a conviction to hold the officer responsible. The officer now receives tax paid round-the-clock protection. Additionally, when the video is up for interpretation, signs of emotional upset on the side of the citizen can be used as an excuse to dismiss the entire complaint without addressing the violation of the officer. We never recommend losing tempers or cursing law enforcement – however, this should not be a reason to excuse harm.
This writer has noted myriad incidents of police intimidation while a citizen respectfully films as well, as removal and destruction of expensive iPhones that are never anticipated to be replaced. There is a growing attitude that simply by filming, a citizen is considered to be an obstruction of justice. Furthermore, authority figures like the Boston police commissioner are calling for laws to criminalize the act of filming law enforcement.
Lastly, notice the title question – has filming cops helped citizens with police brutality claims? For claims against NYPD, sure, there is an uptick of proven claims thanks to citizen filming. But also notice that it speaks nothing of the reduction of the brutality events themselves. In order to keep from becoming independent filmmakers of our own destruction, the brutality itself needs to be adamantly addressed. Perhaps the same way it was in the fatal shooting of John Geer. By embracing peer and media support with sheer persistence toward accountability until such behavior in departments can be altered.
While it’s great that people are better able to prove claims of brutality – the real goal is to reach a point where American citizens are free from brutality and make it to trial if arrested for a crime. We should all want more than mere survival of unwarranted abuse and the restoration of our good names if wrongly accused of a crime.