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Why giving the police body cameras will not work

December 7, 2014

Today was the first time I saw the full video capturing the homicide of Eric Garner in full. I watched the clip here alongside with a commentary of how the officers’ actions compared with NYPD guidance:

This video proves that there will always be instances where police are inexplicably above the law and protected. It is horrific. So why was it judged, by fellow human beings, to be acceptable?

The cases of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Mark Duggan, Brian Douglas, Leon Briggs, Sean Rigg, Jean Charles de Menezes and more direct me towards a few conclusions:

1. America’s laws were written by the worst kind of racists and we are living in the unequal world that they intended

The laws in several American states are simple. If you fear for your life, you are entitled to kill. Correctly, these laws have been etymologically linked to American chattel slavery. They allowed African Americans to be murdered by white Americans without punishment. Brutal and violent societies often have these bizarre legal charades – see Apartheid South Africa. The problem with America is that the charade was never acknowledged and through these deaths, we can see it continues today. The first step towards recovery in a newly democratic South Africa was in the undertaking of a new constitution. America’s wounds were never healed because the racism of its forefathers has never been politically confronted, and now it’s condition has become chronic.

2. Protecting the police’s right to act without fear of recrimination is considered more important than justice.

The position of police is wildly contradictory. We protest against their wrong-doings but when our houses get robbed, they are the first people we call. And the hegemony (decision makers, powerful people, the illuminati, whoever you think is in charge of this world) use this very idea to let the police officers literally get away with murder.

In the UK,  incidents of police bias are generally seen via individual acts of dissent, institutional disregard and abuse of power. Hence the “missing CCTV” in the case of Leon Briggs, or the instructions given by the coroner presiding over the Mark Duggan inquest (the jury was told to find the killing unlawful only if they thought so ‘without doubt’ and not ‘on the balance of probabilities’ which is more usual for inquest verdicts). Who gave the instruction to ‘lose’ that CCTV and who instructed the Coroner to change the criteria the jury could use?

Over the decades we’ve seen equal marriage and legalised cannabis. Sorry to state the obvious but laws can be changed. Why not these ones? Why not make all inquests or Grand Juries consistent, with the same criteria for judgements and the same process – interviews, cross-examination and so on?

There is simply no incentive for the ruling class to allow this. I don’t know why that coroner gave that rare direction to Duggan’s inquest jury, and I don’t know why the Grand Jury in America never had to interrogate Daniel Pantaleo. I cannot fathom how Darren Wilson’s testimony was taken as fact whilst other witnessess were decided to be false. But I would propose that empowering police over citizens took priority over justice. The idea that police are above the law is ludicrous. But I suspect that this practice persists in the spurious belief that without it, the law enforcement we can’t live with and can’t live without would be undermined and society would be worse off.

3. Cameras won’t work and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do

When we get caught rioting, the law has teeth that later disappear when inquests and Grand Juries need to be negotiated (see some of the sentencing handed down to the UK 2011 rioters – attacked for their consumerism a few months before the middle classes raided John Lewis during Black Friday).

When we peacefully protest, we stop traffic, we inconvenience commuters and we make the news. But where is the change?

My fatalism comes from the public nature of the corruption. None of this is discrete yet still it goes on. Decades ago The MacPherson Report and subsequently Duwayne Brooks publically named a whole host of Met Police officers for their manipulation, criminality and downright falsehoods told during the Lawrence case (WPC Brooks, DS Christopher Crowley, PC Linda Bethel, DC Mick Tomlin, DI Sturge…) but only did so months, often years into their retirement and still, no real recriminations were ever proposed.

The IPCC have been exposed time and time again for inadequate investigations that are not fit for purpose. So why the obsession with trying to generate more evidence that will be ignored, or ‘misplaced’?

I can predict the excuses that will materialise if body cameras are ever standardised. Perhaps the evidence will be withheld, maybe the batteries will coincidently not have been be charged. Memories will suddenly be full or overwritten. I wouldn’t be surprised of a conviction isn’t secured because a lens cap has been left on.

Body cameras are designed to capture evidence. But the problem has rarely been lack of evidence. Until America and the UK have the stomach to confront the racism not in the heart of law enforcement, but in the spine of their very laws and governments themselves, no evidence will ever be enough.

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