“I want justice for my son!”
Why are we here again? The police have taken yet another life, and now another parent is left mourning the death of her child at the hands of law enforcement, this time in Cincinnati. Sam Dubose—a father, a musician, an entrepreneur and a motorcycle enthusiast—was pulled over by University of Cincinnati campus police July 19 for missing a license tag. He never made it home to his family.
Yet again, a so-called routine traffic stop has ended in tragedy, and a community is left reeling. But unlike in so many other cases, this time we have answers via body-camera footage that shows exactly what happened. The police had cherry-picked and released footage showing the officer being “polite and courteous” during other stops—footage that told the narrative that they wanted to tell. But when the body-camera footage finally became public, it showed the truth: that this officer, unprompted, shot a man in the head and tried to make it look justifiable. Now that officer is being charged with murder. The prosecutor said that having body-camera footage was invaluable in bringing forth the charges.
Although by no means a solution to police brutality, body cameras are critical to forcing more accountability in law-enforcement practices. ColorOfChange.org has called for them because right now it is truly a matter of life and death. The urgency of now calls for a complete restructuring of how we understand the role of police in today’s society. Police have shown that they cannot police themselves, and when it’s our word against theirs, the police will be taken at their word unquestioned. Even when we’re the ones left dead in the street or in a jail cell.
But body cameras are only as good as the laws that enforce them. Across the country, the public must be given the power and oversight necessary to enforce a higher standard of policing. There must be protocols that ensure body cameras are a tool of accountability, not another weapon for injustice, racism and surveillance.
At ColorOfChange.org, we believe that body cameras should be mandatory. Unedited footage should be made available in a timely manner to any person caught on camera seeking to file a complaint, to those accused of a crime and to the next of kin of anyone whose death is related to the events captured on video. Body cameras should be used responsibly and effectively, and their footage should have narrow, well-defined purposes that allow for justice and truth, not more cover-ups, lies and P.R. for the police.
In a world where black people are stereotyped as “violent” and police exist to enforce the boundaries of a divided and racist society, families deserve to know exactly what happened to their loved ones, and they deserve justice. The Dubose family finally has some answers—but unfortunately, too many families are left without them.
At the time of this writing, 663 people have been killed by members of law enforcement this year. By the time this is published, that number will have gone up. Black people are three times more likely than white people to be killed by law enforcement. But that may not matter to Audrey Dubose tonight because tonight she is mourning the loss of her child, and Sam Dubose’s children are mourning the loss of their father. And that’s not right. We need body cameras along with policies that work—but more than that, we need the police to stop killing us.
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