In the time it took us to research and write this article, a man named Freddie Gray went from living anonymously in Baltimore, to lying comatose with spinal cord injuries after a ride in the back of a police van, to having his funeral spark protests and civil unrest in his city. And by the time we publish this, the cycle may have started over again with someone else.
In the meantime, the biggest question we're asking ourselves -- besides "I wonder what some random jackass I went to high school with is saying about these issues on Facebook?" -- is when will the freaking cops stop killing people? Not anytime soon, it looks like, because ...
We Have No Idea How Well (Or If) Body Cameras Work
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"He said, she said" disputes are notoriously difficult to sort out, particularly when one party is dead. Simple solution to all of this: Start putting body cameras on all police officers. All of them, right now. What, we can attach GoPros to our cats, but we can't be bothered to strap them to our cops?
If you don't care about police brutality, look at it this way: We'd be one step closer to Robocop.
But before we start dropping millions of dollars on these bad boys, are we even sure that body cameras will solve the problem? Barak Ariel from the University of Cambridge has been studying CopCams (an abbreviation we just made up and trademarked) all over the world, including a year-long trial run in California, and his conclusion is ... maybe? While the results of his investigation look positive so far, the problem is that this is the only properly conducted study about body cameras that exists. Meaning that, as Ariel himself points out, we don't really know what effects these things will have. For instance, if the cameras are running all the time, would that reduce the number of informants or other "If anyone finds out I'm talking to you, I'm dead" types who approach cops? And if they're not running all the time, then what's the fucking point?
Ariel isn't alone; the US Department of Justice analyzed the "entire body of evidence on body-worn cameras," which was comprised of a whopping five studies, and concluded that there wasn't enough information to go forward with body cam mandates. And let's not forget there are incidents in which we do have video footage (like the Eric Garner arrest), and the situation is still as clear as Taco Bell toilet water. But hey, at least we got to see the Garner footage. The San Diego PD recently started a body cam program that came with a teensy caveat: They won't release any footage to the public. Ever. So they're telling us to trust that the cops are telling the truth, which hasn't worked out so well lately.
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"It's just that Johnson had a huge zit on his face that day. He's very shy."