At some point, policemen everywhere are going to realize that there are cameras everywhere. That what they do in public will stay in public...forever. So far, there are too many cops who haven't gotten the point. They continue to perform as cops did back in the good old days when cameras were an inconvenience to carry around. The following is my Chicago Defender column on the subject.
Shoot, cops caught on candid camera
By Monroe Anderson
Michael Slager is the latest cop to get caught on camera starring in America’s most alarming reality TV series ever: Trigger happy cops playing judge and jury, publicly executing unarmed Black males.
Officer Slager was too arrogant, too cold-blooded or too stupid to realize that we now live in the Era of the Candid Camera. You virtually can’t do anything, in public or private, with absolute certainty that it won’t be recorded and that it won’t go public.
There are porn sites dedicated to videos of ex-girlfriends performing some of the most intimate sexual acts imaginable posted by rejected men seeking revenge. There are spy cameras atop streetlight poles, speed cameras hanging out with overhead stop lights at street intersections and surveillance cameras in shops and stores, all aimed to capture and record anyone breaking the law. And there are heroes, like bystander Feidin Santana, who risk their safety to record cops, like Michael Slager, who choose to use living, breathing Black men, like Walter Scott, for target practice.
In the past few days, we’ve all seen what is nothing less than a snuff flick of Slager firing eight shots at a fleeing Scott, hitting him in the back five times, then handcuffing the 50-year-old man’s motionless body before retrieving and dropping, what is suspected to be, a Taser gun next to it.
The North Charleston cop wasn’t the only shooter featured this week in a viral video.
We also saw a 44-year-old Black man shot to death by a 73-year-old white man in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Robert Bates, an insurance executive, who volunteers as a reserve Tulsa County deputy sheriff, claims he mistakenly shot Eric Harris with his handgun, when he meant to shoot him with his Taser gun.
As Harris is tackled, lying face-down on the ground with a deputy’s knee pinning his head, a gunshot rings out and Bates says: "Oh, I shot him. I'm sorry."
Harris screams: "He shot me. Oh, my God," and a deputy replies: "You f---ing ran. Shut the f--- up."
When Harris says he's losing his breath, another deputy replies, "F--- your breath."
Harris was pronounced dead an hour later in a Tulsa hospital.
A sunglass camera worn by one of the deputies recorded the video of Harris’ April 2nd arrest. Against the wishes of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s department, prosecutors charged Bates, a pay-to-play cop, with second-degree manslaughter. Slager has been charged with first-degree murder.
The Zion cop who shot and killed 17-year-old Justus Howell Easter weekend is on paid administrative leave. No cameras recorded the circumstances that resulted in Howell being shot twice in the back, allowing Zion police to come up with one of the usual explanations: The teenager had a handgun.
Eyewitnesses say they saw no weapon. An investigation is underway. No video has surfaced so the Zion police have caught a lucky break. Two-thirds of all Americans have smartphones, which means all but a third of us are now armed with cameras and dangerous to cops who still believe they can do what they’ve done to Black men for generations without notice or record.
On December 4, 1968, Fred Hampton, 21, was murdered by while asleep in his West Side apartment during a Chicago police raid. Mark Clark, 22, was also killed during the predawn raid where police fired 90-99 shots.
In 1972, never quite able to get over the killing of Hampton and Clark and incensed because Chicago police were harassing two friends and supporters, who were both dentists, Rep. Ralph Metcalfe broke away from Mayor Richard J. Daley, assembling a blue ribbon panel and issuing a congressional study the next year entitled “The Misuse of Police Authority in Chicago.”
Not much resulted from that report. Between 1972 and 1991, Detective Commander Jon Burge and his midnight crew, tortured 110 Black criminal suspects, forcing false confessions. Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced yesterday (Tuesday) that he backs a $5.5 million reparations package for Burge’s victims. And an ACLU report released last month found that last summer, when the NYPD’s stop and frisk practices were all the rage, the CPD made more than a quarter of a million stops that did not result in arrests--four times that of people stopped in New York.
The CPD continues to be suspect. Two days ago, federal authorities confirmed that the FBI is investing the death of Lequan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was shot down in a barrage of bullets. The Chicago teen allegedly was wielding a knife. A dashboard camera from a squad car recorded the action and the shooter has been reassigned to desk duty.
If I were to tell you that neither the Scott nor McDonald shooting would be a case if there weren’t moving pictures, would you take my word for it?
Well, here are a few more words for the wise: Justice is beautiful, but blindfolded. So always keep your smartphone charged in case you need to show her what is or is not happening.