South Carolina: Video of police shooting alters the playing field in determining culpability

In recent cases of police using lethal force against unarmed black citizens, the police are rarely found guilty, but the video of a South Carolina policeman’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black man during a routine traffic stop shows that video evidence can provide clear evidence crucial to a just outcome. “We’re seeing things in a different light now that we have so much more video. Things in the past that may have been mischaracterized, we’re now seeing very starkly, very honestly. And I believe that will lead to progress,” said New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio. (10, April 9, 2015, by David Crary of the Associated Press)

The video taken with a smartphone by a by stander behind a fence clearly showed the officer shooting the man as he tried to run away resulting in a murder indictment for the officer. There are all ready a number of apps for smartphones that help citizens document their run-ins with law enforcement. One developed by the New York Civil Liberties Union allows a bystander to record from an iPhone by pressing a button on the frame. The app can send the recording to the union for evaluation. Citizen use of smartphones in recording police action is protected by the First Amendment with exceptions for safety and interference with police procedures. (The New York Times, April 8, 2015, by Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac)

The incident is expected to rekindle efforts to put body cameras on all law enforcement officers in South Carolina. Two laws are currently in subcommittees, one to require the body cameras and another to implement a two month study of the impact of requiring body cameras for all state troopers.  (The Washington Post, April 8, 2015, by Wesley Lowery with Michael Miller)