THE BLOG

Body Cameras Will Not Save Black Lives

07/22/2015 05:06 EDT | Updated 07/22/2016 05:59 EDT
ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE - This May 11, 2015, file photo, shows Sgt. Mike Fossmo, of the West Valley City Police, demonstrating the use of a body camera, in West Valley City. As more police agencies issue body cameras to their officers, Utah needs to set statewide standards about what should be filmed and who can see it, lawmakers and advocates said Tuesday, July 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

By: Lincoln Blades

This past Monday, (heavily favoured) Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton decided to host a Facebook Q&A where people could ask her questions about her stances on particular topics as well as what specific policy changes she would address as the 45th President of the United States.

The conversation was soon joined by Wesley Lowery, a reporter for the Washington Post who covers the justice system, race and politics. Lowery asked Clinton, who skipped the Netroots Nation convention where her democratic opponents Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders were taken to task by activist Tia Oso and other Black Lives Matter protestors, a version of the same question that was posed to Sanders and O'Malley: "As the leader of this nation, will you advance a racial justice agenda that will dismantle -- not reform, not make progress -- but will begin to dismantle the structural racism in the United States?"

Clinton, in response, not only stated that Black Lives do in fact matter (without the pointless, nullifying #AllLivesMatter adjunct) but she even outlined specific ways in which she will bring about real, substantive change on racialized police brutality. Her first example was, "Make sure every police department in the U.S. has body cameras". And just like that, I realized that Clinton, who is probably the most fit to be the next president, is just as clueless about the tone and tenor of anti-Black policing and what it will take to dismantle it.

Mandatory body cameras sound like a terrific answer to holding police accountable for their actions, but the reality is that these cameras will not save Black lives, nor will they even give victims of state-sanctioned violence the justice they and their families deserve.

Every month, news breaks of a fresh, rage-inducing video showing a police officer abusing their power by victimizing a Black body. Whether it's Walter Scott's back being used as a shooting range target in North Charleston, a bikini-clad teenage Black girl being body-slammed outside of a pool party for no reason in McKinney, or Sandra Bland being arrested and assaulted without cause in Waller County, there is seemingly no end to the abuses we have on tape.

Yet, even with video proof, there remains an endless number of police departments willing to unequivocally support officers caught doing terrible shit on camera, numerous judges and prosecutors willing to excuse the officers' obvious racist brutality, and countless citizens, of all races, willing to blame the victim in any way they possibly can. And this is all representative of a larger, deranged social dynamic currently at play right now: Black lives are seen as so meaningless and viewed with so much contempt, that even when our demise is captured on film, this white supremacist society will find any damn reason it can to vilify the victim.

From Rodney King's brutal beating in March of 1991 to the most recent police executions in 2015, every single video is surrounded by a veritable chorus of idiots willing to excuse the worst of bad police behaviour. Go check the comment section or any popular site, the Twitter commentary for any victim-turned-hashtag, or the remarks of your friends and colleagues, and you will undoubtedly be overwhelmed with a flood of, "If he/she just [insert pacifying action at the hands of police here] then they would still be alive today", which, in their mind, equates simple non-compliance with justifiable execution. No matter how dehumanizing or unreasonable the request, do exactly what the officer says, and if you get your brains blown out for refusing to acquiesce to an illegal arrest, or demanding to know why you're being detained, then it's your fucking fault.

And therein lies the problem with the state of policing in 2015 that body cameras cannot fix. No matter what we do, our skin has collectively been so heavily demonized with the burden of criminality, regardless of our individual level of innocence, that the fix isn't adding video evidence; it's flushing the system of the discriminatory bullshit that overwhelms every part of it.

Body cameras will not save Black lives. At most, they can potentially indict an officer, but even that is a statistical anomaly that bears no real evidence of preventing an officer from gunning down or choking out unarmed Black men and women.

It has just been recently revealed that there will be no charges against Peel Police in the shooting death of Jermaine Carby, although the SIU director openly admitted that the officer "tampered" with the scene. How exactly would a body camera have spared his life? A police officer who is willing to arrange a murder scene to fit the narrative he will sell to his superiors is wholly unconcerned with saving Black lives or limiting their brutality towards unarmed people of colour.

Black people's main concern today is not having a visual record of racist police murders, it's bringing them to an end. If the justice system continues to neglect punishing officers who are psychologically and ideologically unfit to police, the blood of our brothers and sisters will continue to stain the concrete all over North America.

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