President Barack Obama wants the nation’s police officers to wear body cameras to document violent confrontations that all too often lead to the deaths of unarmed black men like Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The President plans to sign an executive order proposing that $75 million be allocated to buy body cameras for 50,000 police officers following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot and killed by former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in August.
The President’s plan is sound but here’s my concern: What good are body cameras for police if excessive use of force is clearly documented on video but grand juries won’t indict white police officers?
We’ve already seen two recent cases where justice for Black families were denied: A grand jury in St. Louis didn’t indict Wilson; and a grand jury in Staten Island refused to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who was seen on video gripping Garner, 43, in a chokehold. Garner died shortly after Pantaleo took Garner to the ground and his tragic death was captured on video for the nation to watch. So what part of this video didn’t the grand jury see?
Black folks have complained for years that a corrupt police culture leads to the disproportionate shooting deaths of black men by police from coast to coast and those deaths have created a deep distrust in law enforcement that is almost impossible to repair.
“I’m being pretty explicit about my concern, and being pretty explicit about the fact that this is a systemic problem, that Black folks and Latinos and others are not just making this up,” Obama told BET this week.
The depths of that unfairness were showcased on Twitter this week. After the Garner decision led to protests nationwide, thousands of white Twitter users began posting their eye-opening experiences with police officers using the hashtag #crimingwhilewhite.
They cited being caught shoplifting, driving drunk, driving without a license, driving with marijuana – and being let go with only a warning. And in many cases, not even a warning.
There is perhaps no better way to illustrate the racial divide between police officers and Black and white residents who interact with police on a daily basis. Consider the following Twitter posts that explain the tale of two Americas with law enforcement: one for blacks and another for whites:
Getting let off easy by police has become a comfortable way of life for so many white Americans and it’s refreshing to see that some whites are openly sharing their police interactions with the nation while shining a spotlight on a racially biased law enforcement culture.
When more white police officers strap on body cameras, let’s get some of these ‘criming while white’ experiences on video, too.
What do you think?