By: Steven Goodman – Asst. Opinions Editor
Until a few months ago, I, and I’m assuming most of the country, had never even heard of Ferguson, Missouri. Now, this town is making front page news every day in the United States, and its struggle has even become major news in some other countries.
The actual event that took place, the killing of Michael Brown, raised a lot of concerns in this country — particularly about race and the role of police officers.Unfortunately, it usually takes a tragedy before major issues are actually scrutinized and a solution is sought.
This shooting and the violent protests that followed turned into the kind of tragedy that pushes those in charge to rethink policy. One of the more recent announcements to come as a result of Michael Brown’s death is that $75 million of federal money will be spent on body cameras for law enforcement. Of course, with this announcement comes the fact that there’s no regulation for using these cameras. When should they be turned off? Do they need to record everything the officer does while on duty? And so on and so forth.
While an ideal world would have all the concerns surrounding body cameras hashed out prior to their use, it most likely will not happen.
The body cameras themselves are not a bad idea, it might have changed the protests that went on in Ferguson, but it will most likely require years of writing the book as we go. The fact that body cameras are being introduced at all reminds me of the saying “it takes one to ruin it for the rest of us.”
One of the results of the shooting in Ferguson seemed to be the labeling of all law enforcement officers as terrible people.
Obviously not all police officers would have acted in the same way, but it tends to be the most horrifying news that makes headlines. Either way, there’s still another majority that doesn’t seem to label law enforcement as “bad people,” but still claims they target certain races. It does seem to be the case sometimes, especially since most of the horror stories involving police officers seem to revolve around a white officer attacking an unarmed person of color. But I can almost guarantee that if you compare the headline-making events with every single police officer encounter, the shootings and other violent acts are in the minority.
Body cameras may be a step in the right direction. I remember seeing an article that compared the U.S.’s police officers to those of other countries around the world. Reading that, our law enforcement agents do seem more prone to a “shoot to kill” attitude than a disabling shot that would allow the person to live. I’m sure to many people body cameras seem reminiscent of the novel “1984.”
Of course, if some regulations could be put into place prior to giving a camera to every officer in the country, everything might change. And who knows, maybe recording every police interaction would make all the difference?
Either way, there’s apparently something missing in the training of our law enforcement officers that needs to be addressed in one way or another.