Smart Phones: Good for Suspects; Bad for Cops

In the news today, another example of what appears to be police brutality in British Columbia. A Terrace, BC RCMP officer punches an alleged young offender (under 18 years old) in the face while the young offender is on the ground, face down, in handcuffs and is being straddled by the officer.

Whether the prevalence of smart phones brings about more positive or negative to society is a hotly debated issue these days, but here is another great example of how they are making positive change. In the past, without this video evidence, this officer would have had a very low chance of facing any sort of fallout for engaging in this type of behaviour. Perhaps the young person would complain to his parents or his lawyer, but in the end it would be the officer’s word against the young person, who now stands accused of a crime. Usually an officer would respond to the allegations with something to the effect of “the suspect was actively resisting arrest, so I employed strikes in an effort to subdue him and place the handcuffs on him”. Without any external evidence, such as video, unfortunately people tend to believe the officer.

As a society, we tend to believe that because the police have a tough job and sometimes they meet violent resistance, when they use force, it is justified. When accused people complain of being beaten up by the police, we tend to view it is just an excuse to escape liability and displace blame. In my experience, the reality is that police officers are human and they react with adrenaline and anger in tense and violent situations, and more often than people would like to think, police officers beat suspects in a manner that is undeserved and even criminal. Sometimes police officer’s personalities or problems in their personal lives cause them to treat people in deplorable ways during the course of their employment. 

The more prevalent access to high definition video devices becomes, the more officers who commit acts like these will be held to account. When it is no longer the word of an officer against the word of a person accused of a crime, but the explanation of an officer against a high definition video clip, it becomes much more difficult for officers to explain away their behaviour. So, keep your smart phone at the ready if you happen to see one of these bad apples in action.