Saturday, August 23, 2014

The solution to the police state

The solution to police brutality is already available: What happens when Police wear body-cams.

Of course it's not perfect. Any system has flaws and potential for abuse or misuse.

But the fundamental point is that people cannot remain moral without accountability. This is not a knock on police officers; it is a statement about human nature. We are feedback loops; if no one is standing beside us to frown when we drift in the wrong direction, we literally go off the rails. We have known this since forever: "absolute power corrupts absolutely" was well-understood long before John Dalberg-Acton wrote it down. And haven't internet forums exhaustively proven that anonymity = douchebaggery?

In the first year the Rialto police force wore these cameras, complaints about police behavior went down by 88%. That is incredible. Can you imagine any other technology increasing quality of customer satisfaction by that much and yet not being instantly adopted by every company everywhere? What is stopping every police chief in the country from reducing his civilian complaint file by a factor of ten via the trivial expense of a few cameras?

Much more tellingly, the use of force went down by 60%. Now there can be a lot of explanations for this: perhaps perpetrators who were aware their actions were being recorded were reminded to behave better, lest a jury see their intransigence. But it is hard to dismiss the notion that police use of force had perhaps been higher than strictly necessary the year before.

It was not too long ago that people were being threatened with severe criminal penalties merely for filming cops performing arrests (sometimes even when they were the arrestee). It may not be too far in the future when every public servant who is legally authorized to wield deadly force must also wield a camera. And when that day comes, we will look back on today the same way we look back at the early firearms that lacked safety catches.

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