Across the country, cell phone videos from bystanders are helping to police the police and bring others to justice. In Minneapolis, the initial police account of the death of George Floyd, did NOT mention that an officer’s knee on his neck, pinned him to the ground causing him to cry out “Please, I can’t breath”. Instead, the short and sanitized report stated that the suspect “physically resisted officers”; he “appeared to be under the influence”, and appeared to be “suffering medical distress”. A bystander video emerged later and told a dramatically different story. The video showed a white police officer ignoring cries of “I can’t breath”, and instead pressing his knee in to the back of a black suspect’s neck until he was unconscious. This explosive video sparked community outrage which resulted in four officers being fired and protests across the country and the world. In rural Georgia, three men are charged with murder, in an incident where they hunted down and shot Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man, who was jogging in a white neighborhood. The initial police report repeated the account of one of the attackers – a retired law enforcement officer – that Mr. Arbery was pursued because he was suspected in a rash of break-ins in the neighborhood. However, surveillance videos showed Mr. Arbery walking in to a house that was under construction, but not taking anything. A shocking video of the fatal encounter was later released, and this video put pressure upon Georgia authorities to arrest and charge the three men involved in the incident. Another recent episode in New York City, also captured on video, has raised serious questions on how police respond after black people are accused of crimes. In this incident, a white woman in Central Park, is captured on video calling 911 to report a nonexistent crime. Fortunately, the black man, who was merely bird watching in the park, had his cell phone to capture the white woman, who was falsely accusing him. Imagine for a moment, if these incidents had not been captured on video. Would the Minneapolis officers have been fired or investigated? Would the brutal hunt down and murder by the three white men in Georgia, have been swept under the rug? Would the birdwatcher in Central Park, who only asked the white woman to keep her dog on a leash, be jailed at Riker’s Island, and facing criminal charges? While technology can sometimes be a burden, it can also be a blessing.
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