If differing stories of Ferguson have a lesson, it’s body cameras for all U.S. officers on duty

By: Kaleb Bengston

The jury in Ferguson, Mo., this week ruled in favor of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown. The killing of Brown brought back the attention of America’s history of strong policing against minorities.

The decision means that Wilson will not face state charges for the killing of Brown, which happened Aug. 9, almost four months ago. This decision set off a flare of anger and other emotions in Ferguson, setting people into a riot, burning and raiding buildings and fighting police. At least two and a half dozen buildings were set aflame. Downtown police shot tear gas into the crowd to contain the crowds, eliciting even more anger.

National Guard troops fanned across the city as the attorney general announced the decision. People started filling the streets, and shortly after midnight police reported hearing automatic gunfire.

The protests aren’t restricted to Ferguson. Protesters gathered at Washington, D.C., and other cities across the nation and caused havoc. Obama made a statement after the decision and urged peace, but also that police use restraint. The Governor of Missouri had a different plan. “If people are using violence or threatening property, resources will be used.”

The rioting and protesting isn’t unnecessary. There have been many, many uses of lethal force against minorities in just the last year, and even more staggering is the amount of police brutality. Just last week, there was Akai Gurley, an unarmed African-American man who was accidently shot during a house raid. Or Eric Garner, a young man who was strangled to death by a police officer.

Minorities make up about 30 percent of the American population, although they make up 60 percent of those imprisoned. Incarceration rates have also grown 700 percent since 1970. The incarceration rates are disproportionately higher for minorities than for white people. One in 15 black males will be incarcerated in their lifetimes, 1 in 36 hispanics will be incarcerated and only 1 in 106 white males will be jailed. Why is that? Some say racial profiling.

The people in Ferguson are not blameless, though. They were rioting, which is not a right, whereas protesting is. The solution to this issue, though, is for the police to wear cameras. Michael Brown is the only other person in the world that knows exactly what happened, and he’s dead, so the only first hand account they have is the cop’s word. If he were wearing a camera, there would be undisputable evidence and there would be no argument as to who was guilty.

In February 2012, the city of Rialto had 70 police officers take part in a controlled study in which they were required to wear a tiny camera that filmed their interactions with the public. The results were incredible: In the first year of the cameras’ introduction, complaints against Rialto police officers fell by 88 percent, while use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent. The cameras cost as little as a tenth the price of a standard-issue firearm.

“When you put a camera on a police officer, they tend to behave a little better, follow the rules a little better,” Rialto police Chief William A. Farrar told the New York Times. “And if a citizen knows the officer is wearing a camera, chances are the citizen will behave a little better.”

Because of Michael Brown’s death, the public is urging a bill, the Mike Brown Law, which requires police to wear body cameras. The petition has 154,747 signatures, and it only needs to be signed by 100,000 people.

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