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Let’s Stop Just Talking About Poor Race Relations With Cops And Do This…

toronto-police-body-camera

Lost in the demands to do something about race relations is the undeniable fact that every time an unarmed Black man is shot by law enforcement there is a call for, you guessed it, a national conversation about race relations. Meanwhile, more people on both sides of the argument – cops and civilians – are killed as we continue to call for more conversations. There are some well-intended efforts underway as our national conversation lurches down its thorny road, but there’s one solution that’s already out there that we all need to get behind. It’s getting a body camera for every police officer in the United States.

But first, I need to let you know that this article and topic is outside my usual lane of writing. I typically write business-related articles on leadership and change strategies while staying away from politics or domestic issues, leaving that to others. However, the current unrest in our country and the racial underpinnings has shaken me to my core and I’m compelled to weigh in on the issue despite my discomfort.

I’ve been pulled out of my comfort zone and into this discussion because I’m scared. I have three adult sons and worry for their safety every day. The mere fact that they are black men is why I worry for their safety, no other reason. And yet my sons are responsible law-abiding citizens; professional men with great careers and loving friends, family, and relationships. One son is a managing attorney of a law firm, another is a wellness coach, and the third is an accountant and controller for a company. I’m proud of them as individuals and the fine men they have become. There should be NO reason for me to fear for their safety, but as countless other mothers of black sons, I do worry and pray that they don’t become one of the statistics that we hear about far too often.

There should be NO reason for me to fear for my sons safety, but as countless other mothers of black sons, I do.

At the same time, I respect and appreciate the work that the vast majority of police officers do every day to keep us safe and I want them to return home safely each day to their loved ones. Unfortunately, I can’t answer the call that Dallas Police Chief David Brown extended at a recent press conference when he suggested that citizens “put an application in” to help resolve some of the problems being protested about; although I think that’s a compelling idea for those willing and able to sign up. So where does that leave those of us who see and empathize with both sides of this complex issue? We want to do something, anything that may help save lives and feel that more needs to be done than just talk. How do we move from talk to solutions? #Best Advice

Where does that leave those of us who see and empathize with both sides of this complex issue? 

In an article by Karen Weise, published in Bloomberg Business Week, I was drawn to learn more about #Taser International. Now, Taser obviously is the company behind the stun-gun that bears its name, but they’re also the major player for body cameras and storage of video evidence. While Karen’s article poses a crucially valid question about whether the use of body cameras will make everyone safer, the article presents some interesting facts. My research into Taser and the impact of their body cameras leads me to get on the bandwagon and advocate that every police officer should be equipped, trained, and using a body camera to help serve as a protection for both citizens and cops.

Every police officer should be equipped, trained, and using a body camera to protect both citizens and cops.

While on-going research continues to document results, the information to date is pretty convincing that body cameras protect both citizens and cops. In San Diego, CA there was a drop in complaints against police of 40.5% and a 46.5% decline in the use of “personal body” force. In South Florida, a 12-month study of the Orlando Police Department showed a drop in use-of-force incidents of 53% and a 65% decline in civilian complaints against officers. Another year-long study of body-worn cameras at the police department in Rialto, CA showed a 58-64% reduction in use-of-force incidents and a drop of 88% in citizen complaints. While cops originally resisted the body cameras in many of these studies, almost without exception by the end of the study they became believers in their value and use.

So how expensive would it be to outfit every police officer in the country with body cameras? The answer is, I don’t care – let’s do this! I know this is not the studied, analytical response that someone in my line of work typically gives; I’m speaking from my heart and the vantage point of just being someone who cares and wants to see more than just talk. I want solutions and action. It’s only fair to acknowledge that there are some plans currently in place to provide governmental funding to support buying more body cameras for police, but these efforts are not enough.

What’s the cost? The answer is, I don’t care – let’s do this!

This is where we are today – pushing and hurting. Taser body cameras are not a panacea for police and community relations but it sure beats listening to everyone, from the President on down, calling for “conversations” about race relations over and over again while nothing really changes.

A body camera on every cop is one step, one thing we can actually wrap our arms around to take steps toward an effective solution. We can get granular and come up with individual ways to help. Maybe it’s starting a GoFundMe effort to buy body cameras for your local police station. Perhaps it’s getting involved with community efforts to support fiscal decisions to purchase equipment. Individually and collectively we can work together to figure out ways to help. What are we waiting for?

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Carly Vivian
Carly Vivianhttps://www.slalom.com/
CARLY is an expert in leadership development and organizational change management (OCM). Her mission is to reinvent how people think about change, replacing fear and inertia with clarity of direction and forward momentum. Carly loves to work with leaders and help guide them and their teams through major transitions with agility, connection, and commitment. As a leader in Slalom's Business Advisory Services practice, she leads strategic initiatives to bring new levels of transformation and change management to clients. With 20+ years of consulting experience and deep expertise in executive coaching, organization effectiveness, strategy, and team effectiveness, she has a proven track record for delivering solutions that drive growth, accelerate innovation and result in improved outcomes. Carly can be reached at [email protected]

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2 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Carly: I agree, we have collectively talked this race question of cops vs minorities to death and still call for more. But, I know a few cops and they are not all in favor of body cameras, even though they admit their value. Of course for the cameras to be of real value they can not be turned off and on except at the beginning and ending of a shift and the recordings can’t be edited. Either of those conditions would largely invalidate their purpose. And, therein lies the problem. Cops come upon many situations that are probably best not taped and those of us in the general population don’t have a clue as to how ugly those scenes can be. Do we really want to video a 3 year old girl being raped by a 300# drunk? A suicide where brains are splattered all over a wall? If you had a 16 year old granddaughter would you want her taped running nude through a KMart parking lot while high on drugs? Who gets to see this tape? How long is it kept and by whom? It just isn’t as simple as we would like it to be.

    The problem really is one of our disintegrating cultural values. That is the core that we should be addressing.

    • Ken, thanks for your thoughtful perspective. I understand that many law enforcement officers don’t like the idea of body cameras but research seems to indicate that once they’ve had an opportunity to use it, most of them change their opinion and not only recognize the value but come to appreciate it. But even if they don’t like it, that’s not really the point. From my perspective, the most important thing is that the truth prevails and is preserved – that’s the issue.

      Body cameras provide a technological solution in an environment where trust is often missing. Of course, there are processes, systems, details, etc. that need to accompany all of this – it’s not a simple matter, but neither are the societal and cultural issues that underlie this topic. From my research, it’s my understanding that the evidence collected by body cameras is NOT available for general public viewing. There are already hundreds of thousands of hours of evidence collected that we, the general public don’t have access to, nor should we. The evidence is downloaded and collected off-site and inaccessible for tampering or manipulation. From there, it’s available to appropriate parties when needed.

      As for the examples you cite, no, I don’t want to see those things made public to curiosity seekers or voyeurs and I believe safeguards are already in place to prevent that type of thing and protect human rights. At the same time, I want that child rapist you describe to be caught and prosecuted. If body camera evidence can make the difference in someone being convicted or going free, I’ll choose pushing officers to wear the equipment any day of the week.

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