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Some thoughts on Ferguson

Tom Jackson • Aug 22, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Like many of you, I have been reading coverage of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., and the resulting protests and discussions. Here are some thoughts and resources:

(1) The best suggestion I've seen for reducing tensions between police and the people they serve comes from a Wall Street Journal article, "What Happens When Police Officers Wear Body Cameras," by Christopher Mims. 

Mr. Mims writes, "Sometimes, like the moments leading up to when a police officer decides to shoot someone, transparency is an unalloyed good. And especially lately, technology has progressed to a point that it makes this kind of transparency not just possible, but routine.

"So it is in Rialto, Calif., where an entire police force is wearing so-called body-mounted cameras, no bigger than pagers, that record everything that transpires between officers and citizens. In the first year after the cameras' introduction, the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%."


Mr. Mims notes that recordings often protect police officers from false accusations of misconduct. "Some of the reduction in complaints is apparently because of citizens declining to contest video evidence of their behavior," he writes.


(2) Many investigations of police killings are a sham.


Here is an interesting sentence: "In 129 years since police and fire commissions were created in the state of Wisconsin, we could not find a single ruling by a police department, an inquest or a police commission that a shooting was unjustified."


That's from a Politico article, "What I Did After Police Killed My Son," by Michael Bell, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. Bell is white, underscoring the fact that this problem is not only a racial problem. He won a $1.75 million judgment, and helped lead a successful campaign to set up an independent board to investigate police shootings.


Via Reason's Hit and Run blog, good reading for people interested in civil liberties issues. 


(3) If you are interested in these kinds of issues, you should read Radley Balko's Washington Post blog. 



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