Excessive force is not just a law enforcement issue. It is an issue that affects all Americans.
There have been many issues of excessive force in law enforcement, just as there have been many instances of excessive force against law enforcement. The bill that many lawmakers of both Republican and Democratic persuasion, sponsor would require that on-duty police officers in Nevada to wear a portable body camera. The knowledge that their actions are caught on camera could help prevent the use of excessive force by officers.
The use of video to record the many situations that arise on a regular patrol may just encourage officers to keep their cool in a hot situation, to think twice when there is no time to think, and to not use their position of power to abuse another human being, and prevent excessive force.
Video footage would not just be advantageous to the citizens of Nevada. A police officer could be protected when claims of excessive force are disproved with the use of video. The trend is to always blame the officer when things occur that some see as preventable. It is easy for one to judge how an officer should handle a situation when they have never been in such a situation. A video of an altercation played could very possibly be the difference in an officer being falsely accused of inappropriate behavior such as excessive force.
Despite the issues in law enforcement, there are still men and women who put on their uniform and put their lives on the line for the greater good. Their goal is to protect the citizens in their communities. They are mistrusted and mistreated by the very people that they are there to protect. Law enforcement personnel wear a badge, but they are not the badge. They are human and as subject to mistake, to temper to fear as anyone else.
While the use of video may deter officers from using excessive force, it will almost positively not deter excessive force against officers. One thing that should be remembered about law enforcement is that it is necessary. If people did not break the law, there would be no need for officers to enforce it.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department launched a pilot program for body cameras last November, and there is some concern that officers will just turn them off when they do not want to incriminate themselves if an instance in which excessive force occurs.
Most of the improper or excessive force situations occur in the heat of the moment, and it is unlikely that they will have the presence of mind to switch off a camera while under intense pressure. Although the body cameras are not a perfect solution, they could save lives.
Body cameras will be a great expense for local and state government to undertake. It is estimated that the bill would cost over $9 million. That is certainly a hefty price to pay for equipment, but a price tag cannot be put on the lives of the citizens of Nevada, or the law enforcement that is there to protect them. Putting an end to the excessive force issues that affect law enforcement and citizens alike could justify the cost.
Opinion By Jennifer Barclay
Photo by Steve Rhodes Flickr License