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On June 18 of 2017, Charleena Lyles called the police to report a burglary in her home. Two policemen arrived, the situation somehow escalated, and within three minutes, the pregnant, African-American Charleena Lyles was shot dead in front of her two children. Imagine watching your mother being shot by someone who was meant to protect you. The death of Lyles sparked outrage all over the country. There was no video to prove what had happened, only the accounts both policemen gave as well as an audio recording, which seemed normal. What consequences did the police officers face as a result? None. They claimed their violence was self-defense and what they did was considered the right way to have acted in that situation. Would law enforcement have come to the same conclusion if there had been a video recording? Furthermore, would the incident have even taken place if the policemen had been wearing body-cameras? Although some people believe that police body-cameras are expensive and make the public lose trust in law enforcement as well as policemen themselves, police body-cameras should be mandatory in America as they actually could help regain trust in law enforcement, reduce unnecessary and unjustified violence, and provide transparency.

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Body-cameras will reduce unnecessary and unjustified violence. Vox.com reports that in the United States, police officers are allowed to use deadly force even if they merely perceive a threat. Moreover, in general, officers are given a lot of legal grace to use force without fear of punishment. David Klinger, a University of Missouri St. Louis professor who studies the use of force, told Vox.com that police officers are constitutionally allowed to shoot under two circumstances. The first circumstance is “to protect their life or the life of another innocent party” and the second circumstance is “to prevent a suspect from escaping”, but only if the officer has probable cause to think the suspect poses a dangerous threat to others. The intention behind these legal standards is to give police officers freedom to make split-second decisions to protect themselves and others nearby. Although some people argue that these legal standards are essential to police officers safety, they also give law enforcement a license to kill innocent or unarmed people. In the United States, one of the big issues is racial profiling and huge racial disparities in how police officers use force. According to an analysis by the Guardian in 2015, racial minorities made up about 37.4 percent of the general population in the US yet they also made 62.7 percent of unarmed people killed by police. In some cases, these police shootings are justified, however, a lot of the time, they are unjustified and examples of excessive force by police officers. On July 14, 2014, Eric Garner was killed only for illegally selling cigarettes on the streets of New York. When police approached him, he refused to listen to their requests. As a result, a police officer put him in a chokehold, something which had been banned in the police department, which eventually killed him. Officers are equipped with many things such as tasers, and chemical sprays, is killing someone for breaking an insignificant law really necessary? Some argue that these disparities are explained by socioeconomic factors such as poverty, unemployment, segregation, and neglect by the police when it comes to serious crimes. Therefore, they say that because police tend to be more present in black neighborhoods, there are more incidents in those areas because the police are around when crimes are committed. However, an analysis by the Guardian shows that police officers are more likely to target, arrest and use excessive force on black people than people of other ethnicities purely due to racism. Despite that there is a majority of police brutality against black people, there is also police brutality against everyone else. It needs to stop and cameras could help that. Knowing that they are being filmed, police officers may be more careful regarding who they target and not let their bias drive their judgment. This would lead to fewer unnecessary and unjustified violence and more trust in the police. 

    When body-cameras were first introduced, they were thought to only help keep police officers accountable. However, body-cameras have the possibility to be a “win-win” situation as they not only keep police but also citizens accountable for their actions, predicted Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the ACLU. This statement has already been proven to be true in multiple cases provided on Vox.com. A case in 2015 of the police shooting of Samuel DuBrose in Cincinnati found officers lying about the shooting. They claimed that their lives had been in danger when video footage proved they really hadn’t. On the other side, in 2014 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a woman claimed a police officer sexually assaulted her during a drunk driving stop. Fortunately for the officer, video footage showed that nothing of that sort happened and the officer avoided a lot of trouble for something he hadn’t committed. Although in some instances, body cameras have helped policemen proving they were wrongly accused and in some instances have helped convict criminals, it would be fair to say that they would mostly help citizens as they are the ones who are affected by police brutality. When there is a shooting or use of excessive violence, no one can prove if what the police officer did was an accident or if it was intended because without footage, nobody knows what really happened. Police officers also have an unfair advantage and are almost never convicted or prosecuted for their use of force. Police officers give an account of what happened after an incident, before anyone else, and as David Rudovsky, a civil rights lawyer who co-wrote Prosecuting Misconduct: Law and Litigation, told Vox.com, “There is a tendency to believe an officer over a civilian, in terms of credibility,”. Police. The study, “Police Shootings Data: What We Know and What We Don’t Know” by Criminal Justice Faculty Publications showed that between 2005 to 2017 only 80 police officers had been charged with murder or manslaughter from an on-duty fatal shooting. Then, data from The Washington Post showed that between 2015 to 2017, 2,945 people had been killed by the police. That is about 36 times more people who died than officers charged and these deaths were only data from 3 years compared to 12. Not everyone shot is innocent, and not every police officer is cruel, but there are so many cases which are just disregarded because the lack of evidence. With video recordings as evidence, body-cameras could help citizens. Both parties would be accountable for their actions, and those who did something wrong would be punished. Additionally, differences between accidents and intended violence could be made, and money and time would be saved avoiding he said she said court lawsuits. 

On the other hand, some people say that body-cameras are expensive and make the public lose trust in the police as well as policemen themselves. While it is true that supplying all police departments across the United States with body-cameras would be very costly, the small devices could pay for themselves. A 2014 report in New York City found that supplying the whole police department, in New York, would cost 33 million dollars. However, in 2013, New York City paid 152 million dollars as a result of claims of police misconduct. This shows that actually, states in America could profit from body cameras since they cost the city much less than police misconduct lawsuits and claims.
As mentioned earlier, when police officers are filmed, they know they will be held accountable for their actions and may use less unnecessary violence, leading to less claims of police misconduct and less money lost that could’ve been used differently. Another point people argue is if we’re putting cameras on police officers, why not put cameras on all public servants? Why not put cameras on teachers and doctors? Firstly, teachers, doctors, and other public servants don’t carry firearms. Their duty is not to protect. Very rarely do we see headlines about teachers and doctors killing clients and students. Police body-cameras have been established for a reason. And although they may be invasive of a police officer’s privacy, they are needed because police officers have a lot of power and many times in the past, officers have misused that power. If we start putting cameras on everyone, where do we stop?

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