Will Cameras Save Us from the Police State?



Practically every day, a new video is circulating on the internet showing severe examples of police misconduct. As the police become increasingly militarized and brazen in their violent attacks—for example, see this story on a Baptism party in a private backyard broken up for excessive noise, ended when cops tasered a grandfather and a pregnant mother (who has been perversely charged with “assaulting a police officer”)—cameras may be our best hope in preventing the emergence of a full-blown police state. The police killing of Oscar Grant at the Oakland BART station on New Years Day was made famous and prosecutable because it was caught on so many cellphone cameras. Even government cameras give a glimpse into police corruption and criminality, such as with this recent footage of multiple officers agreeing to frame a woman to cover up a car accident caused by one of their own.

I used to think that police brutality was becoming much more commonplace, but maybe it’s only more visible now because of technology? I would guess it’s a combination of both factors at play.

Of course, government wants to monitor what we do, but keep everything it does secret. This is why Obama has gone so far as to push for an amendment to the Freedom of Information Act purely to prevent photos depicting torture of detainees, and has blocked the release of documents pertaining to the destruction of videos revealing torture in interrogation. But the technology is there, and the surveillance state isn’t going away, so as long as cameras advance and proliferate, I say: Turn them against the state. It may be one of our best checks on government power.

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