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Technology and Police Brutality

By Amy Brown
19 Nov 2014

When someone is being recorded, one is more aware of their actions; this applies to even police officers. With many cases of police brutality occurring throughout America, from Ferguson to the recorded death of Eric Garner to the beating of Luis Paulino in 2012, the question of technology and its role in decreasing police brutality emerges. Is it possible for technology, specifically cell phone cameras, to end police brutality?

People can record anything that they see in a public area, legally, and many people have taken to recording police to have proof of exactly what happened. Luis Paulino, who was beaten by NYPD officers after intervening while they were beating another man, would never have been believed if there had not been video, he claims. Erik Garner’s friend who recorded the attack says that he records whenever police are around to protect himself and others. Videos are strong evidence in court. Paul Callan, a former prosecutor, says that cases of police brutality have in fact dropped with the prevalence of cell phone recording devices. Although videos of police brutality have gone viral, such as in the case of Erik Garner’s choking, the overall number of cases has in fact gone down. Some precincts are now even requiring police to wear body cameras to monitor actions.

However, statistics reported by the Department of Justice say that the number of police brutality cases have not changed significantly since 2002. The use of technology, and the commonness of phones equipped with cameras, has increased since then. The use of body cameras on officers, however, has decreased complaints to departments and increased transparency.

Do you think that cell phones could stop police brutality? Should people be allowed to record officers anytime they are in public? Should officers be required to wear body cameras that record their every action while on duty?

Cell Phone Pocket by Gwyneth Anne Bronwynne Jones –  (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Amy graduated from DePauw University in 2017, and was a Hillman Intern and the Digital Media Assistant Managing Editor at the Prindle Institute for Ethics. At DePauw, she was an Honor Scholar and Political Science major with a Russian studies minor. She has spent time abroad in the Czech Republic and now works in Washington, D.C.
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