Have you seen the video of an unarmed man named Eric Garner being put in a chokehold by an officer of the New York Police Department? As a 34-year veteran of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, and once commander of both police academies, I was appalled to watch that video and learn that Eric died just moments later.
It's deeply upsetting to watch a 43-year-old father of six say "I can't breathe" over and over, but the officer doesn't let go -- even though officers are not allowed to use chokeholds. Eric's death is part of a tremendous rise in racial profiling, unconstitutional searches, and violent forms of misconduct from some members of the NYPD.
There is a simple way to make a dramatic change in police misconduct: require officers to wear on-body cameras that record their interactions. I can't help but think that if the officers involved with Eric were wearing on-body-cameras that they knew would later be reviewed by superiors, they would have acted much differently. Eric Garner might still be alive today.
Other police departments are using on-body cameras with amazing success. In the first year after the Rialto Police Department in California adopted the cameras in 2012, the number of complaints filed against officers fell by 88 percent compared with the last year. More importantly, the use of force by officers fell by almost 60 percent.
Last year, a US District Court judge ordered that NYPD test wearing on-body cameras, but former Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushed back strongly against the idea, and the department has yet to adopt the technology. But now New York has a new mayor, Bill de Blasio, who made a campaign promise to cut down on police violence. Requiring on-body cameras would be a key way for him to keep that promise.
On-body cameras protect communities from police misconduct, and they also protect the officers themselves from violence. This is a system that benefits everyone, and will help restore community trust in the NYPD. I have more than three decades of experience serving as a police officer and training new officers. I strongly believe that this is one of the best possible ways to prevent senseless deaths like Eric Garner's as well as violence and false accusations.
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