A police officer had reports of a suspicious black man walking down the street with his hands in his pockets. Seriously.
What happened next was probably the best possible outcome in the situation. The officer pulled out his phone and recorded too. And then they had a civil discussion about the ridiculousness of the situation. Had they not both filmed, it could have turned out differently. But recent research found, in Rialto, California, for example, that using body cams decreased citizen complaints by 88% and use of force dropped 59%. If every interaction were as calm as this one, imagine the amount of trust that could be earned on both sides.
All he did was walk down the street while black. In the cold. With his hands in his pockets. Because of the aforementioned cold. The police were called because of that. Wrap your brain around that. It's ridiculous. B Mckean, the guy behind the camera, was rightfully frustrated with the whole situation. He has to deal with things I don't have to deal with every single day.
Respect is a two-way street. This officer actually listened and took the call with the amount of skepticism it deserved.
UPDATE: Since this was published, there's been a news development. Charges were not brought against the police officer who was implicated in Eric Garner's death after being filmed using a banned choke hold. Had he been wearing a camera himself, he might have shown some restraint. But sadly, cameras will not fix everything. They are only one tool in a larger overhaul we need in how we police and communicate as a country.
We need to have independent prosecutors who aren't connected to police. Our district attorneys shouldn't have to — nor are they often able to — judge the case with an impartial ear. They rely on those police for help in other cases. Neither the officers nor the prosecutor should be put into an adversarial position with each other. It helps keep everything on the up and up. And seeking a special prosecutor leaves less doubt about whatever conclusion they come to. Recusal is a good thing that keeps things transparent.
We also need to change police priorities. Most of the cases that the officer in questions dealt with involved low-level misdemeanors for things like smoking pot (which is now legal in some states). And the officer had a history of being aggressive. If his superiors had better priorities, he might not ever have had cause to interact with Eric Garner in the first place.
Fixing the state we’re in right now obviously has to involve more than just adding cameras and independent prosecutors. What else can help us fix this cycle we're trapped in?
But I digress.
Thankfully, B McKean and the officer in this video both handled the situation professionally and courteously (even with the awkward high-five.) We need more officers behaving this way. This was a tiny step in the right direction, but it really should be the status quo. We need more trust and respect from those in power for those folks who aren't in power. Otherwise those who aren't will never be able to give the police any trust or respect. And we'll be back where we started.
So more cameras for everyone, more transparency for everyone, and better police and citizen relations for all.