A new and interesting police transparency bill has been introduced in the Michigan State House that aims to affix cameras upon law enforcement.
In what may be the final bill he introduces, departing Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester) has introduced House Bill 5970 (HB5970), his latest attempt to bring about more transparency and accountability for law enforcement. Previously, he had introduced HB4455 for restrictions on the use of drones and HB4914 for SWAT Team accountability. He also introduced the HB5420, the 4th Amendment Protection Act, drafted by our sister organization the OffNow Project. None of these bills have been passed (thanks to those ‘freedom loving Republicans’ running the show in Lansing), but nevertheless Rep. McMillin continues to push the envelope for liberty and he deserves to be commended for his great work.
HB5970 would “provide for the use by law enforcement officers of cameras worn on the body” and “require the retention and provide for the production by law enforcement agencies of recordings made using the cameras.” Other provisions in the bill require the destruction of video recordings within two weeks if it is not being used in an investigation and preventing footage from being placed into invasive facial recognition databases.
It is unclear whether this bill will be enough to stop the epidemic of police brutality that is sweeping America. A legitimate concern with these types of measures is that they will create an even more Orwellian society for us all to live in. More cameras around could mean more surveillance. There is a concern that these cameras will be used to gather more data from citizens, and give Big Brother even more of a reach into our lives.
That certainly could be the case. However, police have shown the willingness to lie time and again to avoid being brought to justice for their heinous abuses. Foolhardy juries are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. With a video record of events that take place, it will be more difficult for the uniformed thugs to avoid being held accountable for their behavior. It is my inkling that cameras on cops will be a good thing, but there are definitely some kinks that will need to be ironed out before this program is as effective as it needs to be.
A good way for us to improve upon this legislation would be to add a provision that punishes police officers whose cameras conveniently go blank before the use of force is deployed. These officers could either lose their job instantly or be charged with misdemeanors or felonies. That way, it would be less likely for one of these well-timed malfunctions to take place. There is language in HB5970 that states “if a law enforcement agency is unable to produce a recording… there is a presumption that the recording would corroborate the version of the facts advanced by the defendant” which is good. However, without criminal penalties, offending officers would be faced with a jury likely consisting of cop-worshiping yokels chomping at the bit to venerate their badged gods. The deck would still be stacked against the victims.
Another possible way to improve upon this legislation would be to aggressively sanction police departments that refuse to produce video footage when it’s requested. An internet database with all of the video garnered from cops uploaded onto it that would be easily accessible at any time would be nice as well. That is how we could REALLY ensure transparency. It might cost a bit of money, but it would save us a lot of money too in the form of taxpayer-funded payoffs to victims of abuse. With the eyes on them at all times, the police would certainly be more courteous and hesitant toward the general public than they are right now.
The road to full police transparency and accountability is a long one, and there will inevitably be bumps along the way. Although HB5970 is not perfect, it is a good starting point. The bill has the potential to make it more difficult for police to victimize the masses and get away with it. That is a positive step in the right direction. Be sure to contact your state legislators and urge them to co-sponsor and vote for this bill. We need peace on our streets. We don’t want any more Fergusons. This is the beginning of making our country less of a war zone and more of a free, prosperous Republic. Help push forward HB5970. We must push back before the militarized police come for us.