As if there’s no problem that can’t be fixed with a government program and money, President Obama is requesting funds to equip police officers with body cameras in order to curtail police brutality. If politicians in Washington told us they needed to fund a government program to make certain the sun rises in the morning, you could take it to the bank the sun will stop rising in the morning.
One reason I am opposed to President Obama’s idea is because the Constitution doesn’t permit the federal government to exert this kind of control over local LEOs. Even if funded and initiated entirely at the local level, I would disagree with the government usurping the role of private citizens.
Historically, government has been incapable of holding itself accountable. The video of Eric Garner’s murder demonstrates the inadequacy of cameras as a means to achieve accountability. Body cameras are not the end-all solution to a morality problem and could engender a false sense of security for the citizenry. I’m all for private citizens having the right to record police, and it’s they who need to hold government accountable. I also support the right of individual police officers to record themselves in order to defend against spurious accusations. But a government camera will hold police accountable to the government, not the people.
If the government’s track record is any indication, body cameras could worsen the problem of police brutality. To believe that body cameras, imposed on officers by a flawed system, will morph bad police officers into good ones rather than good ones into bad ones requires a certain amount of naivete.
Consider the case of Eric Garner. His murder was captured on video – the evidence is about as empirical as it can get. The murderer will not be held accountable. Contrast that case with the case of former police chief Willie Lovett. See: Supporting the police who enforce Sheldon Adelson’s racket. For doing the right thing, Lovett is going to jail. The trend is not for the government to administer justice but to drive up its cost (i.e. drive up the cost of a “bribe” or protection). My rule is to look for the means to further that trend in every political plan.
How will body cameras impact officer discretion? Suppose an officer wants to be courteous by not enforcing an unjust statute – say, letting somebody off with a warning – will that officer be unable to deviate from policy? I believe it will be less likely that body cameras will be used to curtail brutality than to enforce compliance with prevailing policies, which will compel the use of unnecessary force.
I see the proposal for body cameras as the new front line in the battle for our civil liberties. If the plan for police officers proceeds, this will be merely the first step of an Orwellian scheme on steroids. Here’s my prediction: The program, if implemented, will only metastasize. Why not compel everybody to wear cameras? If people have nothing to hide, then why not? If we can place body cameras on police officers, why can’t we “help” veterans by compelling VA employees to wear them? (I would be opposed to such a scheme.) Why not compel all government employees to wear body cameras to ensure they are properly executing their duties? We will then have one huge government full of employees being held accountable by the government.
But then what do I know? Pursuant to the VA, everything I wrote above would no doubt be charted as the manifestation of extreme delusional thinking. Perhaps I can overcome this “delusional” thinking by getting with the program and calling for cameras on all government employees (jestingly). And then the government will be able to ensure VA employees comply with prescribing dangerous psychiatric drugs to veterans for having impermissible beliefs (e.g. believing the profit and loss test on the free market is the best way to ensure accountability to consumers).
 – Lovett’s “crime” (he had no victims) was functioning as a de facto tax collector independent of the regime, while Garner’s assailants were functioning as de jure tax collectors on behalf of the regime. From these two cases, one might conclude that violating policy to protect liberty without inflicting injury upon anybody is a greater “crime” than is needlessly taking a life if done in service to the state.