The smartphone has become one of the most-used innovations in our lives today. We document everything, from our child’s first steps and milestones to what we ate for dinner, for all to see and share in. Social media sites like Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram make it possible to know someone in-depth that you’ve never met in person. We can be voyeurs in the lives of others, never once speaking a word to them yet sharing in the most intimate moments they choose to post.
Today, thanks to the smartphone and its capability, we no longer solely rely on the media to provide us with first-hand accounts of events. Livestream gives us live video footage of events, Youtube preserves it for anyone to search and find. Everyday citizens caught in the struggle of their area can stream and post, providing us with an unparalleled and unedited inside look at events. Organizations like CopBlock and Peaceful Streets Project regularly and mindfully use their phones and other recording devices to document police interactions, to ensure the safety of those being stopped. These volunteers are of a singular mindset; they are trained to be watchers, to get everything on video and to transmit that video to the public. But what about ordinary citizens going about their day?
Watching the latest conflagration in Ferguson has brought to light something profoundly important. Tiffany Mitchell told KMOV News 4 that she saw an officer inside a police vehicle wrestling with Brown through the car’s window before a shot rang out. That’s when she says that Brown began running away. Mitchell says the officer fired again and Brown raised his hands in the air before being fired upon until he was killed.
“The cop just continues walk up on him and shoot him until he goes all the way down,” she recalls.
She pulled out her phone to record. The portion released for the public is the aftermath of the scene, when the body is already motionless on the ground. But what else did she capture? Did she capture the altercation, the shooting in progress? From her own statement, she says she heard the wrestling in the police car window. Was she able to video the main piece of evidence that will answer everyone’s question as to what really happened that day?
We are all Watchers of the Watchmen. We should feel a civic responsibility, a responsibility to the common blood that runs through each of us, to video every police encounter we come across. Our rights and our livelihood depend on it. Even just watching the shooting of an unarmed man can be a powerful witness and can profoundly change one’s life. But to RECORD such an act, to undeniably be able to present the facts as such in front of a court, THAT would be the ultimate justification. To prevent the lies and cover-up of a murder, to be able to scream the truth in an unarguable form, and to bring justice to the one who lost their life; there is no greater deed you can do for your fellow innocent. Because we are ALL innocent until proven guilty, not until we are gunned down in the street without due process.
Every person with a phone in their pocket has the ability to change the legacy of an individual. Every police stop has the potential to result in questions that will be answered, and not always truthfully. Did he lunge for a weapon? Did she spit in his face? Did he try to run? Did she raise her hands in surrender? No one can answer these questions beyond a doubt except the impartial eye of the camera. The camera you might be holding.
We owe it to our fellow citizens to record EVERY police interaction we see. Even the most mundane traffic stop can quickly spiral out of control. It not only serves to protect the citizen’s rights, but can also protect the rights of an officer unjustly accused of brutality. In protecting the honest motives of both the citizen and the officer, you protect yourself and your rights as well. You also empower others to stand up and serve as Watchers, to serve as an unbiased witness and a reporter of fact. All this power fits in your pocket. Remember to use it.
Mother of three boys, dedicated wife and homeschooler, and all-around Jill-of-all-trades. Also co-regional director of the West Texas region of Come And Take It Texas. Voted "Most Likely to Have Multiple Bug-Out Bags" in high school.
You might even find yourself stopping a ways back from a simple traffic violator pulled over to change a flat tire and happen to leave your phone or dash cam recording ahead while you pop that spare on 😉
Absolutely! It doesn’t have to be overt.
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