Students, faculty react to officers’ use of body cameras

Roberto Hodge, Multicultural Editor

Some students and faculty believe the use of body cameras on police officers during their shift may help lesson instances of police brutality, but not necessarily change the issues within minority communities.

Tylen Elliott, a sophomore communication studies major, said police brutality is a sad issue that has been going on within the African-American community for a long time, but because of recent events, it is now being brought into the light.

Elliott is referring to when 43-year-old Eric Garner was confronted by New York police officers for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally this past July. Garner was put into a chokehold from behind and taken to the ground. A video capturing his last words went viral.

“I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” said Garner, repeatedly.

Garner’s death came two months prior to 18-year-old Michael Brown’s, who was shot and killed by Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson. Missouri’s grand jury did not indict Wilson for Brown’s death.

New York’s grand jury decided not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo, who choked Garner, which sparked protests and demonstrations now known as “die-ins” around the nation. Die-ins are a form of peaceful, but radical protest by way of laying deathly still on the ground in honor of lives lost to police brutality.

Elliott said the decision not to indict either officers Pantaleo or Brown sends a bad message that the lives of black men do not matter and they are not valued within this country.

Kevin Anderson, a professor of political science, said the decision sends a conflicting and disappointing message that police actions, which are designed to serve and protect a community, can be enforced in a manner that is harmful to that very same community.

In light of both cases, President Barack Obama requested $263 million in funding for more than 50,000 cameras.

Some are skeptical of their effectiveness, questioning if they would help the situation because of the decision not to indict the officer who was caught on camera choking Garner.

“(They’re) only going to help those it intends to help,” said Akeem Forbes, a sophomore English major. “It’s just something to satisfy.”

Brittany Fisher, a political science major, said she felt the usage of the body cameras could help, but the evidence would not be used properly because it may not show who actually attacked the victim because of the cameras being able to be shut off.

Fisher said both situations are unfair and show a sign of injustice on the black community. She, like Forbes, suggested if the shoe was on the other foot with Wilson being black and Brown being white, the officer would have been arrested without the 100-day waiting period.

“The message that it sent is that this is OK. Black lives don’t matter. It paints an image that our black men and women will always be targets,” said Alex Neff, a political science major.

Both Anderson and Forbes said they believe a possible solution to police brutality would be heightened training sessions, evaluations and policing review on their actions to help them figure out the most effective ways to reduce crime without creating resentment between the citizens and police officers.

“This is 1968 all over again,” Forbes said.

Roberto Hodge can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]