Opinions & Editorials

Ferguson: seeking solutions

Body cameras would help police, civilians

On Aug. 9, Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson was not charged with any crimes. Protests turned to riots in Ferguson, Mo., and those riots were met by a heavily militarized police force.

On Nov. 24, a grand jury decided that there was not sufficient physical evidence to disprove Wilson’s plea of self-defense. The protests continued.

amelia

Amelia Ryczek is a junior electronic media major from Chicago.

Regardless of how you interpret the evidence, that was the grand jury’s decision. You may not agree with it, and honestly it doesn’t sit entirely right with me. At this point, nothing else can be done about Darren Wilson or Michael Brown. But I refuse to sit by and let this kind of thing happen again.

The issues of police militarization and insufficient evidence were the main controversies of this case. When the protests began in Ferguson, the backlash against police militarization was so intense that it required involvement from the FBI. The reason the grand jury chose not to indict Wilson is because it didn’t have enough evidence to prove him wrong. I don’t want these problems to remain unsolved.

In too many cases, police officers are accused of doing things that they didn’t do. But police officers are also often not charged for the terrible things they have done. In the wake of the Michael Brown case, a conversation has arisen regarding police body cameras as a means of combatting police militarization, and this week, President Obama weighed in on the topic.
Militarized police equipment is a very controversial issue. When police are equipped in the same way we equip our military, it creates heightened tension and distrust of police. This tension between the police force and civilians was already very intense in Ferguson, and the police’s overzealous and over-weaponized response only made the tension worse.

This distrust of the police is likely one of the main reasons why the Ferguson protests turned into riots. Obama ordered a review of the federal program that passes on surplus military equipment to local police forces. The administration has said that they intend to tighten the standards on when to pass on the surplus as well as the training of officers who would receive this equipment. Adopting these higher standards is the best way that we can avoid such a heavy-handed response again.

The move to equip police with body cameras would be a $75 million initatitive to provide cameras to as many as 50,000 local police officers. Body cameras would provide a concrete solution to the conflicts between the police and civilians. When a video is captured of conflicts between individuals and police officers, we have enough evidence to know the truth.
If this body camera effort had been implemented earlier, we would not have the issue of insufficient evidence in determining whether or not Wilson was acting in self-defense. I hope that this initiative gains support from the American people. I hope that we all get involved to make sure that this never happens again.