Mon | Oct 23, 2017

The cop and the camera

Published:Monday | April 13, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Some 25 years ago, I predicted that the advent of camera phones would place police accounts of shooting incidents under the microscope of public scrutiny, and so said so done.

A few weeks after my prediction, a policeman was caught on tape, brutally using his baton on an applicant for a Portmore house, who he accused of breaking the line at the National Arena.

I was no genius to make the prediction, and neither should that prediction be subjected to the Jamaican proverb of casting 'goat mouth' on the police. The placing of cameras in the hands of ordinary citizens was bound to lead to exposure of the falsity of those well-known police accounts justifying their unwarranted use of lethal force against young men in particular.

"The police were on patrol when they came up on gunmen who opened fire on them. The police took cover and returned fire. A man was found suffering from gunshot wounds and taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead" - in most cases, there was no gun recovered - so "his cronies took up his gun and escaped with it" - or a gun was recovered - but "the serial number was erased" (sic). Research into the number of times this account by the police over the past 30 years has been used, should make interesting reading.

Our justifiable cynicism surrounding this too-often-used explanation for the use of deadly force MUST be the catalyst that moves us to bring an end to all of this. We MUST renew our commitment to the value and sanctity of life itself. The right of us all, including the police, to self-defence is part of that very right to life we must all commit to protect.

The backlash of all of this is that those who are in fear of the revelations of the camera are fiercely against citizens pointing cameras at them. The camera is the most hated object in the hand of citizens, second only to the gun, in the eyes of the police.

A few years ago, those of us who could stomach it, saw on the evening news the videotape of a helpless unarmed man seeking refuge under a motor vehicle being callously shot by a policeman, all caught on tape! Recently, a man at a dance in Lawrence Tavern, St Andrew was accused of possessing a ganja spliff, and this unarmed youth, again, paid the ultimate price for this now ticketable offence.

This situation is worldwide. In the land of the free, the United States of America, black men are now caught on camera, running away from white cops as they shoot to kill, for mere traffic offences.

 

Another black victim

 

Walter Scott, a 50-year-old black man, last week was shot eight times in the back by a South Carolina traffic cop, as he ran away from him. His unarmed and lifeless body was then handcuffed. Unaware that he was being videotaped by a private citizen, the officer presented the usual "my life was in danger and I acted in self-defense" explanation. On release of the video, the truth came to light and his lawyer walked away from the case, and he was charged with murder. The spate of police brutality toward black men in America is frightening. Shooting us is the new less painful act of lynching we all thought was over.

Welcome the black President as we all must, but the likes of who, in his own country, is a member of an endangered species. Racism knows no bounds, I tell you. Parents of young boys, think hard before you have them join that queue in Liguanea, for that envied visa to 'the land of opportunity'.

"All lives matter" must be the motto of our democracy. The powerful must be reigned in by the prevalent use of smart phones. The camera revolution has turned night into day, as their use makes "the truth becomes to live and lies come to die".

- Bert S. Samuels is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and bert.samuels@gmail.com.