New York, NY — In the last few years, smartphones have become cheaper and more plentiful. According to recent statistics, the number of cellphones in the hands of Americans has been rising steadily every year. It is estimated that 182.6 million Americans will own a smartphone in 2015, an increase from 163.9 million in the previous year.
182 million smartphones means that nearly every adult in the country has a camera in their pocket.
Since the increase in smartphones, there has also been an increase in police brutality videos. This increase in videos led to the question of whether brutality is on the rise or merely that the frequency of filming the instances has risen.
While the answer to this question is up for debate, one thing is certain — the number of police brutality allegations being substantiated by video has increased.
New York’s Civilian Complaint Review Board is an independent agency that is empowered to receive, investigate, mediate, hear, make findings, and recommend action on complaints against New York City police officers. According to the CCRB, nearly half (45%) of all claims of brutality and excessive force of NYPD cops have been substantiated by video in the first six months of 2015.
This increase is an 11% jump from 2014 alone.
According to the agency, surveillance and cellphone videos have also helped substantiate 21% of the overall complaints filed with the CCRB so far this year — the highest rate since the agency’s creation in 1993.
“Video is a fundamental revolution when it comes to the accountability of police officers,” CCRB Chairman Richard Emery told the Daily News. “It’s demystifying the whole investigative process. No longer is the lion’s share of the cases ‘he said, she said’ where additional corroboration is almost always required and substantiation is quite difficult.”
The power of the public watching a police officer commit a crime is proving to be quite the thorn in the side of bad cops, but it still has its limitations.
On July 17, 2014, Officer Daniel Pantaleo of the NYPD, placed Eric Garner in a chokehold, a maneuver which has been prohibited by the department since 1993, eventually killing the man. The entire incident was caught on video.
The death was even ruled a homicide due to “compression of neck, chest and positioning during restraint by police.”
Not only did a grand jury fail to indict Pantaleo in the death of Garner, but he was never disciplined by the NYPD. Since the death of Garner, Pantaleo has had 24-hour protection which has cost the taxpayers of New York nearly a half a million dollars.
Also, there is the problem of video interpretation. According to the Daily News,
If a video shows a civilian mouthing off to a cop before the misconduct is made, the officer will likely get a reduced punishment — which could mean instructions on how to act in those situations rather than losing vacation days, said Jose LaSalle, a member of the CopWatch Patrol Unit, a police monitoring group in the South Bronx.
“Out of everything that is on the video, the only thing that should matter is what the complaint is about, be it force, discourtesy, whatever,” LaSalle said.
“There has never been a balancing of the behavior on the video that excuses misconduct,” the CCRB chairman explained. “But if the discourtesy is provoked, that may affect the penalty phase.”
While there is still a long way to go in the uphill battle for police accountability, the power of video continues to grow.
It is hard for people to remain blind to something that is shown to them day in and day out. One can only deny the police state for so long before they see enough videos of cops beating non-violent people to open their eyes.
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