Body cameras might not solve the Ferguson problem
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In the immediate aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting, before we learned that he had not been shot in the back, that he had not had his hands up, that he had, in fact, attempted to grab Officer Wilson’s gun, I wrote in favor of requiring more police to wear body cameras. Assuming nothing about Wilson’s guilt or innocence, I wrote, “Cameras cannot repeal aggression, bias, rage or stupidity — but they can certainly diminish them. And with cameras, justice for the guilty — cop or civilian — is more attainable.”
In the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Wilson, Brown’s parents have called for police to wear body cameras. I remain in favor, but the outright denial displayed by so many opinion leaders in this case makes me doubtful that even video evidence would be enough to calm the next storm if the victim of violence is black and the perpetrator white.
There was video evidence in this case: the convenience store robbery and strong-arming of the owner. Any fair-minded person would concede that while the footage didn’t prove that Brown attacked Wilson a few minutes later, it did severely undermine the legend that was being spun of Brown as a “gentle giant.” Yet, most commentators on the left either ignored the store footage or suggested it was irrelevant. Missouri’s governor denounced the release of the video as a form of character assassination.
For reasons best known to themselves, Ferguson authorities chose to withhold Wilson’s account of the fatal encounter for many weeks. Arguably, this silence permitted the legend of a brutal, unprovoked attack on an “unarmed black man” to proliferate more than it otherwise might have.
Still, by October, word had leaked to a number of news organizations about the autopsy reports (there were three) on Brown’s body. The reports proved conclusively that Brown was not shot in the back, did not have his hands up and had been shot at close range in one hand (consistent with Wilson’s story about a struggle for his gun in the patrol car). He also had enough THC in his body to cause hallucinations.
Again, fair-minded people, presented with this evidence, would give Wilson a hearing.