I could write a lot on Ferguson, police brutality, systemic racism in police actions, and other things that are going on right now. I have already written on many of these things. But today I want to concentrate on police action against media.
The best defense people have against violent actions by cops and citizens is the camera. Recording what’s happening gives non-biased evidence in any case. If you are not doing anything wrong in the public space, whether it’s protesting or policing you should welcome all cameras and media.
Today’s protesters understand this. Many have become citizen journalists, myself included, at these events. It protects against police and others overreactions. Among protesters it can be a diffusing element and give people pause to think about what they say and do next.
Police, on the other hand, have not embraced the video camera. It most likely started with the videos of anti-war protests in the sixties. But it really catalyzed with the video of Rodeny King being hit 33 times with a baton and kicked 3 times in 1992. An incident all too common, the use of excessive force, all of a sudden had clear video evidence. Without which would be impossible to prove. (Even with it, but that’s another bag of worms.)
Regrettably, police have responded to cameras and media in general by targeting them. From forcing them away from arrests to breaking and stealing equipment to preemptively kicking them out of areas before things are going to go down.
In Ferguson, Missouri the first sign of this was the closing of air space above Ferguson at the request of the police force meaning no news choppers. Two credited reporters were detained on Wednesday. Also that night police shot tear gas at a where Al Jazeera America had set up lights and camera a mile away from protests. Forcing them away from their equipment then taking down the equipment. These incidents don’t include the several protesters and citizen journalists that were also detained and harassed while recording what is actually happening.
If Police were not doing anything wrong they should welcome there being evidence of it. It is the guilty that try and mask the truth. There are municipalities that are putting lapel cameras on cops and putting cameras in all vehicles. It reduces incident reports and complaints against cops wherever it is implemented.
If these would have been in place and the cop’s story was correct they could release the video showing Michael Brown reaching for the officer’s weapon and things would be calmer. If a bystander had pulled a camera out and recorded a cop shooting a kid with his hand up the police response would have been more immediate with firings and internal investigations. The tension would be able to be diffused easier.
Since we don’t have proof you have cops calling a child violent and witnesses liars while the community who knows the kid and witness have no trust of the people who are supposedly “Peace Officers.”
When you attack the media recorders you give up the trust people have in you. The one thing that police should be developing. The one thing that the Ferguson police department has lost from the community, trust.