Much of America breathed a sigh of relief when the jury delivered guilty verdicts in the Derek Chauvin trial. As I wrote yesterday, the opposite verdict would have further eroded Americans’ confidence in their own institutions. But there’s a special meaning in it for Madison.
Interviewed on this morning’s Today Show, George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, was asked about how Floyd’s murder had impacted policing even before these convictions. He talked about bans on choke holds, the curtailing of qualified immunity and requiring that police officers have their body cameras on at all times. Now convicted murderer Derek Chauvin did not have his camera on. And, frankly, had it not been for a bystander’s phone video, it’s extremely unlikely that Chauvin would have been convicted.
Yet Madison can’t bring itself to take this simple step. City government has itself tied up in knots with committees studying the issue to death while the mayor is providing no leadership at all. Meanwhile, two-thirds of police departments our size now employ the cameras and there are more all the time. The Madison Police Department and former Council President Sheri Carter, who is Black, support them.
Cameras are only part of the solution. They should be thought of in the context of other reforms, not an excuse for not doing other things. But they provide more information. And more information is always better than less.
In the Chauvin trial our system worked. Justice was done. But it only happened because a camera was present to capture Chauvin’s brutality. Do you need further evidence for the value of police body cams? Ask George Floyd’s brother.