Mandating Body-cams Through Rep. Rush's “Laquan McDonald Camera Act”

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Van Dyke: face of pure evil--gunned down unarmed Laquan in cold blood

Rep. Bobby Rush, (D-Illinois), last week introduced the "Laquan McDonald Camera Act of 2017" that would mandate police departments nationwide to use body-cameras, or lose federal funding.

Rep. Rush has been one of the only voices to speak out strongly against the brutality being perpetrated upon Black America, while the bulk of Congress has been tellingly silent. Congress has made it clear they don’t care about stopping atrocities police perpetrate on Blacks.

Black America must now aggressively resist racism and police violence—and use all the necessary tools at our disposal including: mass mobilization, marches, economic boycotts, and political protests to stop police brutality. Congressman Rush’s legislation, named after 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was murdered in cold-blood by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014, would mandate that police officers use body-cams in order to receive federal funding.

The issue of body-cameras has been a hot topic since many unjustified killings of Black people have been caught on video. Not surprisingly, there are police departments around the country that have resisted the introduction of body-cams. Even those departments with body-camps have seen how police can undermine their effectiveness.

“What’s the point of having body-cams or dashboard cameras if a cop fails to turn them on or the volume is off,” Rush said. “Having clear, enforceable policies protects both citizens and law enforcement officers when these incidents escalate.” In the obvious snuff murder of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5, 2016, Officer Howie Lake II and Officer Blane Salamoni both claimed that their body-cams mysteriously fell off just before the deadly encounter.

According to Congressman Rush’s bill to receive federal funds police would have “To be in compliance with the ‘Laquan McDonald Camera Act,’ a State shall require each law enforcement agency of that State and of a unit of a local government of that State to have in effect a policy requiring and prescribing the conditions for the use of body-worn cameras and dashboard cameras by law enforcement officers of that agency, and to establish procedures providing for the effective enforcement of that policy.”

Rep. Rush pointed out the police departments should actually support his legislation because it would help repair the public’s trust in police. “This legislation seeks to restore some of the public’s trust in law enforcement at time when trust is at an all-time low due. There has been a wave of questionable police shootings that resulted in the deaths of unarmed citizens—or people who appeared to be of no threat at the time of the encounter,” said Rush. “Cases, such as Laquan McDonald, Mike Brown, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are brutal illustrations on why we need a clear documentation of facts when citizen-encounters with police turn deadly."

Black America—and all Americans who believe in true justice, transparency and accountability—must support Congressman Rush’ efforts to stop the scourge of unjustified police violence against Black people. Now is the time for Blacks to make our voices heard by calling members of Congress and demanding that they support this bill. During Tuesday’s address before a joint session of Congress, the Orwellian nature of this current period of “alternate facts” was on full display.

President Trump echoed the big lie being championed by Republicans in Congress that police are the real victims of violence. Trump’s handlers found a Black father who lost a child to violence by an undocumented immigrant to showcase during his speech. What about having Black families whose loved one were killed by trigger-happy police coming to testify before Congress so Trump can see the other side he ignores? Just to name a few they are the families of: Chad Robertson, Laquan McDonald, Ramarley Graham, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

Someone should remind these caring people that the chance of an innocent Black person being unjustly killed by police is astronomically higher compared to this anomaly of a Black son being killed by an undocumented immigrant. Worse of all, though, is if one didn’t know better one would think the issue of police prejudice and brutality against African-American was non-existence since it wasn’t mentioned at all by Donald Trump. Yet, Trump is only following the lead of Republicans in Congress.

By their actions -- or non-actions-- they've consistently shown that they care nothing about institutional racism that bedevils police departments and other U.S. public and private entities. We also have a clear problem of hate groups embedded in police departments—and again politicians in Congress have not acted to address this problem. Since 2006, the The FBI has reported that hate groups like the KKK have been infiltrating police departments. Media have exposed police officers who have been exposed and fired for their Klan affiliations in Florida, Texas and Louisiana.

What about those who are flying under the radar? Let’s be clear: neither Congress, nor this White House, has any interest in stopping police violence and prejudice against Black people. We must force their hand. How long will we sit by while racist police continue to kill innocent Black people? These police apologists are still parroting the mendacious notion that misdeeds and murder against Black people by police represent nothing more than a few “bad apples” on the force. Black Americans can't afford to accept such preposterous nonsense.

There is a nation-wide pattern and consistency to these killings. America’s police, from their very earliest beginnings, have always represented a force of oppression against Black Americans. On Tuesday, the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who is now embroiled in his own alleged involvement in the Russia scandal involving Trump by concealing his contacts with Moscow's U.S. ambassador —said the Justice Department under him will start to “pull back” on suing police departments who have been found to be engaging in racist policing.

He is abandoning the criminal justice reforms initiated by the Justice Department during the two terms of President Obama. "We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness and I'm afraid we've done some of that," Sessions. "So we're going to try to pull back on this," he told a meeting of the nation's state attorneys general in Washington.

Sessions also said: “One of the big things out there that’s, I think, causing trouble and where you see the greatest increase in violence and murders in cities is somehow, some way, we undermine the respect for our police and made, oftentimes, their job more difficult.” It's no wonder that since the election of Trump the share prices of private prison corporations have soared.

There was another increase after Sessions was confirmed. Sessions, like his hypocritical ilk in Congress and the White House, talk a lot about the “disrespect” of police. Isn't the ultimate disrespect when a police officer killing unarmed innocent people they are sworn to protect and serve? Then again why should we be surprised? This is the same racist who once stated, referring to the KKK: “I thought those guys were OK until I learned they smoked pot.”

Sessions talks about how we’re making the jobs of police more difficult. Blacks must face this awful truth: America’s police, from their very beginnings, was tasked with the responsibility of policing our bodies to impede upward mobility by using their power to intimidate and instill fear. Truth be told, in some respects, the police have done things to our people similar to the atrocities of the Klan—perhaps that is why Klan members want to be police officers, so they can brutalize and kill Black Americans while being protected by the law.

Body-cams aren't the ultimate solution but they are a good way to document egregious police conduct. Until body-cams become mandated and introduced by all police departments, in the meantime Black people must do everything in their power to protect themselves at all times.

In addition to using cell phone cameras, Black motorists must wire their cars with video cameras so they can record interactions with police. Also call your members of Congress and demand that she or he support Rep. Bobby Rush’s bill.

 

 

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