In America, police shootings of unarmed black people have been all too common. According to a 2015 Washington Post poll, police “shot nearly 258 unarmed African-Americans” (Patterson and Philip 270). In the past decade, the number of African American males killed by police has increased dramatically. In 2016, for example, there were 250 more black people killed than in previous years. The act required the police department in the United States to collaborate with other stakeholders to determine the causes of death and the best way to solve the problem. Wearing video bodysuits is one of the tactics used to minimize the shooting of unarmed African Americans. However, there has been a debate on the adoption of the technique since sociologists think it infringes police’s privacy while others believe it would reduce the rate of killing. Despite the debate, the government ought to take action to prevent further deaths. Therefore, the camera bodysuits are appropriate based on the benefits. The police officers should be wearing camera bodysuits to promote accountability, prevent violence, improve behavior, facilitate court proceedings, human side of policing, and reduce the racial killing.
Camera Bodysuits Promote Accountability among the Police Officers
The camera bodysuits ensure that police officers are accountable for every killing that they cause. Once the bodysuits have cameras, the police officers act responsibly and avoid unreasonable shooting. In the case of a killing, the prosecution and investigators are assured they would get a video footage. For example, in 2016, an officer at Charlotte in North Carolina killed Keith Lamont Scott whom he claimed that possessed arm and refused to surrender when he asked him to do so. Due to the fact that the 43 years old man was not available to give his story, the investigation did not commence immediately. However, the video released by the alleged daughter who was present at the murder scene “showed Scott unarmed” (Patterson and Philip 272). Surprisingly, the man was even physically disabled. The evidence captured by the camera makes it easy for the investigators to establish the truth in time and allow justice to take its course.
Camera Bodysuit Prevents Violence
Lack of bodysuit cameras enables police officers to use violence when handling African American in a crime situation. Wortley and Michael assert that it would be easy to reduce or even “prevent violence in the presence of bodysuit with a camera” (40). In most cases, the killings of the blacks have resulted due to a lot of riots by other citizens who feel injustice has been administered. For example, the murder of Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charlotte are some of the cases in the US where the police tried to deal with the group in a violent manner. If a police officer has a bodysuit, he/she would handle the crowd harmoniously by observing the law. That is, the police fears that the camera captures the event, and the crowd would prove that indeed he/she used force against them.
Bodysuit Promotes Understanding
The camera bodysuit improves the understanding between the police and the locals. The presence of bodysuit camera instills confidence among the African American. The assertion made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is that the cameras help the police and the blacks to “get to know each other as humans” (Ariel et al. 749). In other words, racist police officers have been looking down upon African American as slaves. Therefore, cameras shape the communication strategy applied by the police, which has been negative in the past. In fact, according to Ariel et al., the killing of black people was “five times more than the rate” at which the whites died due to racism (750). The authors further noted that in 2015, 6 out of 10 of blacks claim the police mishandled them because of their color. The cases occur because there is no contemporary understanding between the police and the blacks. In the case of Philando Castle, the police shot him for allegedly having a busted taillight. He bled and died from the gunshots as shown in the clip recorded then. The eyewitness Diamond Reynolds reported, “the officer shot him three times,” yet he was unarmed (Patterson and Philip 277). When a police has a camera bodysuit, they tackle issues amicably and try to establish good relations with the blacks. Also, the officers would promote dialogue to address social problems affecting the blacks instead of harassing them.
Witness No Longer Record Horrific Events in Courts
The camera in a bodysuit aids in a case ruling in courts. The cameras provide reliable evidence to prove the innocence of the shot people. According to Maskaly and Christopher, cameras help to bring some justice as opposed to the current records, which depicts that ”10 out of the recorded 102 deaths” in 2015, were brought to judgement (208). Unfortunately, there was a conviction of 2 out of the 10 cases where a police officer was involved in shooting the African American. The judges dismissed many cases claiming that there was a lack of concrete evidence. Maskaly and Christopher noted that the prosecution uses “a lot of time and resources trying to mobilize witnesses” and carrying out forensic evidence due to lack of witnesses (209). However, the presence of a camera in bodysuit provides adequate evidence required to convict the police officers in case they shoot unarmed African American. According to the survey conducted by the Riatlo, CA Police Department, the countries that already use camera bodysuit “record positive results” in terms of police killing (Ariel et al. 752). The statistics proved that officer complaints reduced by 87.5% per year.
The Impact on Death Rates
The monitoring of police officers while on duty helps in improving their behavior. Wortley and Michael affirm that it’s natural that people tend to behave logically when “they are being watched” (45). That is, surveillance through camera forces the police officers to practice real behavior when handling situations rather than shooting. This applies that the citizens would not be aggressive since the police officers approach them with calmness. Wortley and Michael claim that states which have used cameras on the bodysuit reduced police brutality against “African-American by 60%” (80). The camera will also help the police commanders to identify the cops who do their work diligently and the way they approach the suspects. Being good at work not only reduce the number of killing but also may lead to the promotion of the officers. Therefore, this acts as a motivational tactic to the rest of the police who would also want to do right to get rewarded. In the long run, the careless shootings of black men would reduce by a large number or even stop entirely.
Reducing Statistical Racial Killing
Statistics on racial shooting reduce significantly if the police puts bodysuit camera. In fact, race is a trigger for brutality from the police. From the historical perspective, blacks worked for whites as slaves. Ironically, until now, some police officers still perceive the blacks as such. Thus, they feel that African Americans have no rights. Due to this, blacks always feel that cops victimize them, and the government does nothing to bring accused persons to justice. Therefore, the cameras would reduce the killing of blacks compared to whites and hispanic. The editor in Huff Post Black Voices Lilly Workneh reported that the introduction of cameras on the bodysuit allows blacks to have voice since “now is not the time to keep quiet” (Patterson and Philip 269). That is, the cameras enable the police officers to treat people equally without discriminating them based on race. The fact that it reduces police brutality, it also reduces aggressiveness from the African Americans since they become brutal when one of their own is shot. The recent incidence was when Micah Johnson, an Army reservist, killed five police officers at Dallas during a protest in March 2016. This occurred when a white police officer mistreated African Americans. Therefore, if there was a camera, the killings could not take place.
Eliminate Corruption and Laziness
Police officers harass African Americans when they are unarmed and lack cash. In cases whereby African Americans fail to cooperate, they are killed brutally and then accused of an assault. For example, when a police officer catches two individuals, a black and a white man engaging in crime, the black is shot and the white is arrested. This is because the white is capable of bribing the police officer. Ariel et al. noted that when blacks threaten “to report the cops for mistreatment,” they are shot (749). It implies that the whites buy their way to freedom, unlike the blacks who cannot afford to pay. Therefore, the camera bodysuit reduces corruption incidences and promote justice and fairness. Nonetheless, it would help the police department to monitor the performance of its officers. The cameras would assist in preventing laziness related activities like drinking during work hours, which leads to reckless killing. If the police leaders retrieve any misbehavior, they prosecute him/her.
Arguments against Camera on the Bodysuits
Violation of Privacy
On the contrary, other people disagree with the idea of police officers wearing bodysuit with cameras. Some individuals feel it is unfair to the police officers since it involves violation of their privacy. According to Maskaly and Christopher, police officers also “have the right to privacy” just like any other ordinary individual (220). That is, the camera covers the events, which happen around the police officer. Thus, the camera affects their life. However, they ought to get used to the new lifestyle of being watched which is unfair. Unfortunately, the privacy would change even the ordinary civilians. That is, whenever a police officer stands next to a person, he/she feels the officer records him/her. As such, people are reluctant to perform their duties peacefully. Criminals might even shoot a police officer as a way of keeping their crimes a secret. People would fear the police and none would want whistleblowing if they want their identities kept a secret.
Installation and Maintenance is Expensive
The investment might be so expensive in the short-run. That is, it requires installation and training before becoming operational. In the long-run, it might “render many crime detective officers jobless” (Maskaly and Christopher 223). As the norm, the police officers collect evidence at the crime scene, label, and store it for court proceedings. Therefore, the enrollment of the cameras eliminates this process since the data is available for use by the prosecution. People involved in data collection would lose their jobs as well. Furthermore, it is about not only recording that is expensive, but also maintenance and ensuring that there is no interference with the recordings.
The killing of blacks has been a major issue in America. The installment of bodysuit cameras is a sound proposal since it helps in providing adequate evidence in the court process; police are forced to treat victims with respect and reduce the death rates among blacks. Also, it reduces racial discrimination and killing, promotes accountability, eliminates corruption, and reduces laziness at work. The police officers would behave professionally while on duty. In fact, blacks would receive justice since the court use evidence provided in the camera. Although some people think that the cameras will interfere with the police officer’s privacy, the shooting would reduce significantly. The cameras might be expensive to install in the short-run; however, they are worth sacrifice since they instill good relations between the police and civilians. As such, in the long-run, the number of blacks shot by the police officers reduces as well as racism.
Ariel, Barak, Alex Sutherland, Darren Henstock, Josh Young, Paul Drover, Jayne Sykes, Simon Megicks, and Ryan Henderson. “Wearing Body Cameras Increases Assaults against Officers and Does Not Reduce Police Use of Force: Results from a Global Multi-Site Experiment. European Journal of Criminology, vol. 13, no. 6, 2016, pp.744-755.
Maskaly, Jon, and Christopher M. Donner. A Theoretical Integration of Social Learning Theory with Terror Management Theory: Towards an Explanation of Police Shootings of Unarmed Suspects. American Journal of Criminal Justice, vol.40, no.2, 2015, pp. 205-224.
Patterson, George T., and Philip G. Swan. Police Shootings of Unarmed African American Males: A Systematic Review. Journal of Human Behaviour in the Social Environment, vol.26, no.3-4, 2016, pp.267-278.
Wortley, Richard, and Michael Townsley. Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis. New York, NY: Routledge, 2016.