We’ve had a bit of inconvenience today from a large pine tree falling over the power line that feeds our electricity here to the house. Trees and limbs and whose responsibility it is to keep things trimmed away from power lines has filled our morning conversation. All of this tree talk put me in mind of the old adage about, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Well, of course it would. The laws of physics are not suspended because there’s no one there to record the event. The fact that a sound unrecorded doesn’t mean that the sound didn’t occur, spring boarded my brain into thinking about sights that previously have gone unrecorded.
I’m talking about the police wearing body cameras. Let me tell you, I’m a big, big fan. I’m a big believer that the guilty must do their penance. That said, and I’m admitting I’m a sinner, I believe all law enforcement everywhere should wear body cameras. I also believe there should be strong penalties to personnel who, “forget to turn the camera on”, or suffer “malfunctions”.
We have the opportunity now to correct a lot of wrongs that have been perpetrated by the folks who are pledged to “protect and serve”. I realize I am painting with a very broad brush, but I’m going to keep on stroking. Since the police reflect the society they are drawn from, that means that some of them are going to be scared to death all of the time, some of them are abusers of power, some of them are physically unfit for the job, some of them are psychologically unfit for the job, and hopefully, most of them are qualified, good public servants. I’m hoping the body cameras weeds out all but the best, with a minimum of civilian carnage during the process.
In case you think I have wildly overstated the problem, let me relate two recent items in the news. The first is the very disturbing body cam footage of a suspect who was being brought to the hospital by the police for a drug issue. The suspect was handcuffed behind the back and posed no threat to the officers. The footage shows the suspect being tasered over twenty times by the three offices while at the front door of the hospital. From the footage, you see no physical threat to the officers. You do see three white officers and one large black suspect.
Previous to body cams, both sides would have to tell their side of the story in court. In this case, suspect dies en route to jail, and so his side of the story would have never been told without the body cams. Why the officers decided to take the suspect to jail instead of leave him at the hospital for treatment, which was their original destination, will be one of the many questions they will have to answer.
My second news item relates to the murder trial of George Floyd, the man killed by police for passing a counterfeit twenty dollar bill. The new part of the footage for me was seeing the police take a suspect that was handcuffed and in the back of a police car and drag him back out into the street to inflict further punishment and eventually death on the suspect. The real time footage was so disturbing that a 911 operator monitoring the neighborhood surveillance camera called her supervisor to send a police supervisor to the scene.
The body cams and a whole bunch of cell phones caught the murder in real time. As the trial proceeds we find that there were a LOT of cameras taking video of the murder. The accused can do nothing but watch his misdeed over and over again as witness after witness is called to testify as to what they saw.
Weeding out the unfit for service is what I’m hoping the body cams will do for society. Whether it’s psychologically or physically, society deserves nothing but the best from their police.
As we’re finding in the Derek Chauvin trial, if a tree falls in front of a body cam, we’ll hear it.