As George Floyd took his last breaths due to the racist white officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck and cutting off his circulation, it wasn’t a body camera or security tape that recorded the horrific injustice occurring. It was a 17 year old high school senior named Darnella Fraizier who still suffers from emotional trauma from that incident that day.
By a stroke of luck, Fraizier happened to be there to record what was going on. She brought justice to Floyd in the only way she was able to at the moment through documenting his death. However, had Fraizier not been there, there would be no visual evidence to prove the iniquity behind Chauvin’s murder. There would have been no video recording of Floyd’s death to spread and eventually become viral around the internet, thus sparking the protests of thousands.
Millions have fought for equality in the midst of harsh racism especially after seeing the horrendous treatment Floyd had received through video. But what America seems to forget is that if that video had not been taken, word of Floyd’s death would not be as widespread. People wouldn’t have been as passionate about advocacy as they are now with visual evidence to prove the murder.
In contrast, if mandatory body cameras were implemented on the officers, the recording of injustice would not have to depend on a high school senior. Thousands of cases of police harassment and racism fueled murders have occurred, leaving minorities to be victims. But most of them haven’t been documented due to police intimidation and the tense heat of many police encounters. Many are afraid to whip out their phones. Many are unaware that they do have the right to record. Many are unprepared to record as the police unexpectedly treat them with brutality. Many might not even have their phones with them, or the luxury of a recording passerby.
It becomes clear that by implementing mandatory body cameras on officers, corruption is greatly lessened. First, body cameras offer clarity to cloudy crime scenes. If there’s no one recording at a crime scene, then what happens simply becomes word of mouth. Our corrupt federal justice system, typically favoring the white police officer, will lean towards their side, shunning minorities who were perhaps harassed or even accused of a crime. A lack of body cameras allows our criminal justice system to ignore the complaints of minorities who don’t have the video evidence to prove they were being harassed or did nothing wrong. It is evident that body cameras should be made mandatory for police officers to wear to ensure that our criminal justice system does not cut the corners they’ve been cutting for decades. Corruption must be abolished and it starts with our police wearing these cameras as soon as they put their uniform on, and prohibiting them from tampering with the audio and visual settings.
Additionally, body cameras make officers and dually civilians hyper aware of their actions. Officers will be significantly less likely to commit life altering crime and racist actions if they know they’re being recorded and that their actions will follow them forever through video footage. As confirmed in a Rialto study, use of police force decreased by 60% and complaints by 88% through the usage of body cameras.
Consequently, civilians being approached by the police will also be on their best behavior if they know they’re being recorded. The National Justice Institute explained that body-worn cameras resulted in higher rates of citizen compliance to officer commands during encounters and fewer complaints lodged against law enforcement. Citizens often change their behavior toward officers when they are informed that the encounter is being recorded.
Not only do 89% of Americans support requiring police officers to wear body cameras to record their on-duty interactions, but there has been bipartisan approval to require all on duty officers to wear body cameras.
<Clara Son/ OC School of the Arts 10th Grade