Are the police outdated?

Police #2

 Are the police outdated?

What happened in the town Ferguson, Missouri has had major consequences. Are the police outdated, and do we have to go back to the proverbial drawing board and rethink our most basic assumptions about law enforcement?.

Thanks to the internet, we are much more closely interconnected today

People have been injured and killed, property destroyed in the standoff between law enforcement and protesters. Many Americans are worried that the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager by a Ferguson police officer may be a Casus Belli that will unleash a wave of civil unrest not seen for 50 years in the United States of America. The fact that the police officer is white and the teenager black makes the incident that much more inflammatory. There have been a good number of front-page accounts of shootings of people of color – especially African Americans – by white police officers in the past few decades.

Ever since the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles over twenty years ago, a beating that was captured on videotape and seen by hundreds of millions of television viewers all over the world shortly thereafter, the possibility of full-scale civic catastrophes bringing rioting, murder, arson and vandalism in their wake has been ever present. The King incident was caught on videotape and then procured and broadcast by an American television station. Thanks to the internet, we are much more closely interconnected today – exponentially so.

riot-provoking images “going viral” on the world wide web

Almost (if not all) mobile devices in use today are equipped with a camera and video recorder, with riot-provoking images “going viral” on the world wide web within a matter of hours, and physicist John Bell’s famous reminder of the integral connection  earthquakes and the beating of a butterfly’s wings in China seems to have become a fact of everyday life. How, then, has this new age of instant communication changed the face of law enforcement in the United States?

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First of all, the camera is not infallible. We speak and listen and decide contextually, basing our thoughts and actions on what came before and came after a spoken sentence or a scene witnessed. Film footage shown on the local or national (or even international) news is inherently false in that it must omit what preceded and followed whatever action is shown. We may see someone gunned down right in front of our eyes right on our own television screen. What we don’t see is what provoked it.

On the other hand, it is still true – to some extent, that although the camera by lie by omission, it is still a much better source of documentation than peoples’ recollection and interpretation of events. If a police officer is letting personal feelings rule him and therefore apply overwhelming force when it is uncalled for then the tv camera or humble smart phone can come to the rescue; ensuring justice will be done in the face of – and despite – the abuse of same by the powers that be. Like DNA testing, the camera is a tool for justice when used honestly and effectively.

First of all, the camera is not infallible. We speak and listen and decide contextually, basing our thoughts and actions on what came before and came after a spoken sentence or a scene witnessed. Film footage shown on the local or national (or even international) news is inherently false in that it must omit what preceded and followed whatever action is shown. We may see someone gunned down right in front of our eyes right on our own television screen. What we don’t see is what provoked it.

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On the other hand, it is still true – to some extent, that although the camera may lie by omission, it is a much better source of facts than human memory. If a police officer is letting personal feelings rule him and applies overwhelming force when it is uncalled for, then the tv camera or humble smart phone can come to the rescue; ensuring justice will be done in the face of – and despite – the abuse of same by the powers that be. Like DNA testing, the camera is a tool for justice when used honestly and effectively.

 

 

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