There’s an understated and unspoken rift between police officers and the people they’re supposed to represent. When I was a teenager my friends and I would crack jokes equating cops with pigs, but we always knew we were safe in their presence without entirely understanding why. Later on, we’d learn about white privilege—the purest expression of which is the ability to feel comfortable in the presence of police—whereas the experience of marginalized people is completely different.
There are always facts we’re not taught in history class. We’re shocked when our neighbours want to tear down statues and icons from our cultural history. We understand Sir John A. McDonald as being the father of confederation, responsible for the railroad that bound us together as a nation, but gloss over the lives of the First Nations people who suffered and died in the residential school system he invented. Go spend some time on YouTube right now and you’ll invariably see what it’s like to not be white in the United States and Canada. Law enforcement is often the enemy for members of marginalized groups.
If you’re white you don’t see the world through the same eyes as someone who isn’t. We can’t know what happens when we’re not there, but imagine for a second that we could. The camera-phone is ubiquitous. It’s a quick and easy way to cover your ass if you’re dealing with potentially unscrupulous cops, but it’s not enough.
What if police were forced to wear a camera at all times? Now that might be possible.
Digital Ally (DGLY.Q) are specialists in the design and manufacturing of high quality video recording equipment and video analytic software. They mainly provide technology for industries like law enforcement, emergency management, fleet safety and security. In addition to vehicle and body cameras, they offer flexible software storage, automatic recording tech and a host of critical safety products. Their products work together and are easy to install and operate.
Their new program offering, announced today, features a lightweight, weather-resistant FirstVu Body Camera with Mini Dock. There will be several subscription packages available, with versatility to match a department’s unique needs for additional products and services, including VuLinkâ auto activation technology.
Even Canada’s present Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes that cops should be wearing body cameras and promised today to bring it up with provincial and territorial premiers. His government’s jurisdiction on the matter extends to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but ends promptly there. The responsibility of outfitting the municipal and provincial law enforcement bodies is with Canada’s mayors and premiers, and ultimately the people who elect them. If you want to see it happen in the future, make it an issue.
Returning to YouTube, you’ll find lots of videos of (mostly white) cops beating marginalized people, but it’s always from a third-person perspective. It’s someone else filming them. The question remains as to whether or not their behaviour would change if they knew they were always being filmed.
Cameras have limits. They only capture what they’re pointed at and images arrive without context, which can then be supplied to support any narrative. But if a camera can provide a sense of security, then maybe it’s a step. The real problem and the biggest roadblock to mass-adoption of body-cameras is funding. The common consensus is seeing is believing and if the presence of an on-body camera can make a cop think twice before pulling the trigger or planting their knee on the neck of another man while he struggles to breathe, then it’s worth the cost.
“Current events are bringing widespread attention to the importance of body cameras. And while body cameras and in-car video systems have become more common in the last decade since the Ferguson unrest, there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of departments that don’t have this critical technology,” said Stan Ross, CEO of Digital Ally.
It’s expensive and most government organizations are cash strapped due to government cutbacks. Digital Ally’s new subscription program will provide an opportunity to pay off the units over time, but also offer packages requiring no down payment so there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be implemented.