According to the Washington Post, fourteen unarmed black men have been shot and killed by the police since the beginning of this year. Additionally, two years ago a black man was shot and killed in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the case was dismissed. Because of this, when a black man was killed by the police in Charlotte this week, riots ensued. The protestors demanded the release of the full video to the public. At this point, the Charlotte police department has released some of the video footage.
It is imperative that the police release the full video because the public already has access to pieces of it from cell phone cameras on social media. In today’s world nothing goes undocumented in film because the average person has a camera in their smartphone on their person at all times. Often the public only publicizes the most horrendous aspects of an event because it will grab the most attention and police cameras constantly record police encounters with the public. The publication of the police footage would show the public the entire event instead of the most dramatic moments. Additionally, body cameras would show the policeman’s perspective which is the only way that one can tell if a shooting was justified.
Another reason that it is essential that the police release the full video is that it shows transparency to the public. The public needs transparency from the police to keep trust in those that are in power. Regardless of how badly a video may make the police look, coming out with the truth appears better than covering it or only showing partial truths. If the police chief comments on a video of a shooting saying that the video does look bad but that they are doing something to resolve the issue and bring justice to the public or the officer, then we can still trust the department as a whole. There are racist and bad people in all areas of the community, including the police, but you cannot demonize a group of people based on the actions of a few. Releasing the video would reinstate the trust that the Charlotte police department as a majority is working to keep all members of the public safe.
With the increased awareness of police shootings and the overwhelming outcry of Black Lives Matter, the public is on edge, if not furious, with the police as a whole. It is incredibly important to recreate the trust and support towards the police to keep our communities safe.
The main argument the police department gives for not sharing the police footage is that the case is under investigation and that the footage is evidence that could effect the memory of witnesses and bias a jury, but this perspective no longer applies to today’s media environment. People have already seen pieces of the shooting because of smartphone recordings and the jury already has biases due to the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements. At this point, if you follow the news, you have developed an opinion on shootings that will effect the ruling in a jury because people are angry with the shooting from one perspective or another. Showing the entirety of what happened would be the only way to create an unbiased community by showing the primary source of what occurred.
At Elon, we should not live in a bubble. Although this occurred in Charlotte, it affects our community. Police transparency creates trust that we need here as much as the people in Charlotte need it because if we don’t trust those who are supposed to protect us, who can we trust?