Judge Griffen: Body cameras won't solve problems of police abuse | Arkansas Blog

Judge Griffen: Body cameras won't solve problems of police abuse


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Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen has taken to his blog again on a matter of current controversy — a police shooting of an unarmed black man in the back in South Carolina.

An excerpt:

The killing of Walter Scott, preserved on video that has now been viewed around the world, has strengthened the rising demand that police officers wear body cameras to document their encounters with the public. I do not oppose body cameras. But Walter Scott wasn’t killed because Michael Slager didn’t have a body camera.

Walter Scott was killed because Michael Slager is a sociopath. Slager lacked the character to be trusted about whether to use lethal force. That character deficit cannot be corrected by issuing a camera.

Let’s stop pretending that body cameras will solve the problem of abusive and homicidal conduct by people in law enforcement. The problem isn’t caused by lack of cameras, but lack of character. The character problem should be thoroughly investigated, explored, and addressed before someone is given a police badge, firearm, and unfettered authority to mistreat and slay other people.

The South Carolina case isn't isolated, Griffen writes:

There is abundant evidence that the police disproportionately mishandle and kill unarmed men and women who are persons of color and/or poor. Despite what the Fourteenth Amendment declares about people not being deprived of life, liberty, and property without due process of law, the police who mishandle and kill unarmed persons are almost never charged, prosecuted, tried, and convicted after doing so. It says a lot about the character of prosecutors, investigators, judges, and jurors that the overwhelming majority of those tragic situations are deemed “justified.” We seem unable to realize the moral and ethical contradiction in blithely accepting the abuse and death of unarmed people by others who are armed and sworn to protect and defend all persons.

The hard truth shown by the death of Walter Scott, as was shown by the deaths of Eric Garner in New York, Tamir Rice in Ohio, Eugene Ellison and Monroe Isadore in Arkansas, Michael Brown, Jr. in Missouri, and so many other unarmed men and women of color, is that our nation has nurtured a culture that allows the law enforcement community to recruit, select, train, promote, and protect people who place little value on the lives of people who are black, brown, and poor. 

There's truth in this. New reporting today on Michael Slager's past — what seems to be a virtually uninvestigated whitewash of Slager for tasting an innocent black man in view of multiple witnesses to the brutality — testifies to the routine exoneration given cops in violent encounters. Body cameras can always be manipulated by dishonest law enforcement. Cellphones are another matter. Thus the desire by many police to prohibit their use and the need for laws that protect public photography of police at work.

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