Good morning, y’all. We’ve had a bit of inconvenience today from a large pine tree falling over the power line that feeds our electricity here to the park. If you pass by here on Highway 60 you might have noticed that the neon TackyToo sign was dark. It didn’t take a dark sign for the residents here to notice the lights were out, even though the tree fell in the middle of the night. I must have had fifty plus phone calls in the first hour after the tree fell. On my cell phone. How they got my cell phone number I’ll never know. Do you know how hard it is to explain to some folks you can’t call Georgia Power until they quit calling you?
Anyway, crack of dawn, Georgia Power was out here hooking stuff back up. Lineman is my second worst job. Tree topper will always be the worst. I mean chainsaws and climbing rotten limbs fifty feet off the ground, what could go wrong?
Anyway, all of this tree talk put me in mind of the old adage about, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, of course it would. The laws of physics are not suspended because there’s no one there to record the event. The fact that a sound unrecorded doesn’t mean that the sound didn’t occur, spring boarded my brain into thinking about sights that previously have gone unrecorded.
I’m talking about the police wearing body cameras. Let me tell you, I’m a big, big fan. I realize that a visual recording might have had a more deleterious effect in court for some of my misdeeds, and, I’m ok with that. I understand the guilty must do their penance. That said, and I’m admitting I’m a sinner, I believe all law enforcement everywhere should wear body cameras. I also believe there should be strong penalties to personnel who, “forget to turn the camera on”, or suffer “malfunctions”.
We have the opportunity now to correct a lot of wrongs that have been perpetrated by the folks who are pledged to “protect and serve”. I realize I am painting with a very broad brush, but I’m going to keep on stroking. Since the police reflect the society they are drawn from, that means that some of them are going to be scared to death all of the time, some of them are abusers of power, some of them are physically unfit for the job, some of them are psychologically unfit for the job, and hopefully, most of them are qualified, good public servants. I’m hoping the body cameras weeds out all but the best, with a minimum of civilian carnage during the process.
Lest you think I have wildly overstated the problem, let me relate two recent items in the news. The first is the very disturbing body cam footage of a suspect who was being brought to the hospital by the police for a drug issue. Suspect is handcuffed behind the back and poses no threat to the officers. He did kick out the car window of the police car and bolted for the hospital. The footage shows the suspect subsequently tasered over twenty times by the three offices while at the front door of the hospital. From the footage, you see no physical threat to the officers. You do see three white officers and one large black suspect.
Previous to body cams, both sides would have to tell their side of the story in court. In this case, suspect dies en route to jail, and so his side of the story would have never been told without the body cams. Why the officers decided to take the suspect to jail instead of leave him at the hospital for treatment, which was their original destination, will be one of the many questions they will have to answer.
My second news item is the news that the shooting of Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy shot and killed by police while holding a pellet gun, was deemed, “clearly objectively reasonable.” The child was shot two seconds after the police rolled onto the scene. The two seconds is factual, not my interpretation, and is mind boggling on the surface. Do I have the time to say, “Police, put down your weapon!”, in two seconds? Can I draw my gun after arrival at the scene, position myself in a safe manner to confront a supposed gunman in two seconds? My gut sense is the officer went in with gun drawn in the car and opened fire immediately. “Not a word was spoke between us”, as Bob Dylan said.
If body cams had been in play at the time of the shooting of the 12 year old child, I’m sure we would a have a different finding than, “clearly objectively reasonable.” Weeding out the unfit for service is what I’m hoping the body cams will do for society. Whether it’s psychologically or physically, society deserves nothing but the best from their police.
If a tree falls in front of a body cam, we’ll hear it.