Why Boston should adopt police body cameras

Sunday marked the first anniversary of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager killed during a confrontation with a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.  The incident put a spotlight on the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement.  A series of comparable tragedies surfaced in the ensuing year, raising public consciousness and sparking a national debate about race and policing.

These incidents are not new.  Rather, they reflect the current manifestation of a longstanding illness in our country that can be traced back to slavery all the way through the Jim Crow era and late twentieth century abuses involving Rodney King, Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, and others.  What is new is our ability to capture these interactions through digital technology and to disseminate those recordings rapidly on social media.  Like the impact of television for protestors during the civil rights movement, body cameras worn on the lapels of police officers and cellphone video devices used by people on the streets are crucial to prompting reform.  Emerging video technologies offer a window into the harrowing, day-to-day experience of far too many black Americans.  This exposure can produce awareness across the racial spectrum and, with it, the impetus for change.