Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Importance of Cameras to Policing

Yesterday was a good day for new law enforcement videos. In addition to the superb John Oliver video on civil asset forfeiture that that went viral on Monday, Vox.com put out a great video on the importance of video recordings to civil rights and policing.

In the interests of full disclosure, I am engaged to the narrator of this video, Ms. Dara Lind, but I would share it even if she had nothing to do with it. (Or, for that matter, that my employer was not cited briefly in the video as it is now.)

WARNING: Video contains footage of people being shot.

Police misconduct, as anyone familiar with my work probably knows, is a subject I've been interested in for several years now. I can talk about incentives and systemic structures and a bunch of other wonkish terms that explain what is happening and why, but videos like this really explain the human-impact of police abuse and how video evidence is often the only way for victims to prove their innocence.

After the fact video evidence won't bring back John Crawford, but wider use of dashcams and personal cameras my prevent more John Crawfords from dying in the future.

There are other issues that need to be addressed to save future John Crawfords...and Mike Browns...and Eric Garners....

But in the meantime, the more video evidence of police interactions, the better.

bellum medicamenti delenda est

Monday, October 6, 2014

John Oliver [Ultra-Violent Verb]s Civil Asset Forfeiture

NB: My employer is a 501c3 and therefore does not endorse legislation. As always, I write here in my personal capacity and not as an employee. Thx, Mgmt.

If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend watching John Oliver's latest video on civil asset forfeiture.

Hopefully, this high-profile treatment will get the ball rolling in Congress on federal forfeiture reform. States will have to independently reform their own laws, but a healthy debate about the practice could see reform moving in the right direction.

Two such bills happen to have been introduced this Congress:

HR 5212 is the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act in the House by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act (Aka: the FAIR Act--well done, acronym team!)

Bills like this always face stiff resistance from law enforcement--both at the federal and state levels. Equitable sharing agreements that split proceeds from federal asset forfeiture typically sends 80% back to the state and local agencies that "cooperate" with federal authorities in these raids. As the Institute for Justice's 2010 paper pointed out, many law enforcement agencies feel that these proceeds are "necessary" to run their budgets.

If you care about this issue, this would probably be a good time for you to contact your senator or representative about supporting these bills.

P.S.--Headline reference here.

bellum medicamenti delenda est