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Defending the #BlackLivesMatter movement from Washington

My latest writing, Police Violence? Body Cams Are No Solution, appeared on Truthout today. It presents my concerns with proposals for police body cameras, explaining how they could ultimately become a vehicle to extend mass surveillance and entrench mass incarceration without advancing either accountability or even transparency.

As I explain in the article:

Recent evasions of justice by the NYPD officers who killed Eric Garner prove what Americans of color have long known: Police can do anything - even murder someone in broad daylight on videotape, without provocation, using methods of force already held illegal - and get away with it.

Americans from all walks of life have responded with a rising tide of protests around the country, ranging from sit-ins at shopping malls and walkouts on college campuses, to the occupation of train stations, major intersections and highways. This movement for justice...faces a disturbing threat in proposals to expand the use of police body cameras....

The real problem - which the president and Congress continue to ignore - is a legal system granting police broad latitude to commit civil rights violations. Between Congress amending it and courts interpreting it, the law must change so that police face justice for arbitrary violence, whether their human rights abuses happen on or off camera....

By extending surveillance, cameras could also fuel mass incarceration. Cameras could capture footage used against defendants in criminal trials - either where the footage depicts criminal acts, like jaywalking or selling loose cigarettes, or where it merely supports suspicion of potential crime, justifying subsequent stops and searches that would otherwise be illegal.

It would be disturbing indeed for calls that "Black Lives Matter" to be answered with tools ensuring that they will continue to be treated as fodder for a corrupt system promoting racial injustice....

Cameras fail to provide meaningful transparency, extend domestic spying, make mass incarceration even worse and represent a budgetary bonus to police departments and corporate camera contractors, while distracting the debate from the more important issue of officer - and department - accountability for abusive patterns and practices.


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