This week, Councilman Ruben Wills held a town hall allowing citizens to express their thoughts and concerns over the program to place body cameras on police officers. Both cops and citizens have expressed concerns about the new policy, aimed at creating more transparency and helping ease the difficult relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
As we’ve seen in the recent shooting deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, having a camera rolling can provide truth in a situation where it is often a citizen’s word against a cop’s. Recently, a camera on the dashboard of a police vehicle captured an officer making racist remarks to a black woman who was taken into custody for resisting arrest, a charge that was dropped after the video was released.
It is understandable that many cops who have done nothing wrong and are true servants may feel they are being unfairly singled out by having to wear a camera. But the cameras are assets for cops as well as citizens. An unruly suspect may be less likely to do something that would endanger a cop if he or she knew his or her actions were being videotaped; and a video provides a defense for a cop who is being unfairly accused of police brutality.
A camera forces cooler heads to prevail, and if they do not, a camera allows a clear view of who is at fault in a situation. Some say cameras have only escalated the tensions, because we are now able to see these interactions and shootings, but we disagree. As the idiom goes, sunlight is the best disinfectant. We’re glad to see the NYPD embracing body cameras and we appreciate and credit New York’s Finest for its efforts – such as bringing back community policing – to bring police officers and the citizens they serve closer together.