I read about an interesting new app this week. It’s called Mobile Justice, product of the ACLU. The main function of the app is to record interactions with police with a cellular device. If for any reason the police officers confiscate, destroy or delete the recording, a duplicate copy is stored in the ACLU’s database for review. These apps are not available in every state as of yet.
It seems to me we are at the point where civilian oversight is going to have to be the norm now. Police brutality has long been a problem, but over the course of this past year, things have reached a fever pitch. This week, of course, we saw the Baltimore riots take over the news cycle. The city was in flames, some neighborhoods looted. For the first time EVER, a baseball game was held without the presence of fans or spectators. The riots were in large part because of the death of Freddie Gray, a man whose spinal cord was severed while in police custody. We have no footage and limited witnesses for this incident.
Of course, the police don’t want any kind of oversight – civilian or otherwise. The president of the Baltimore police union insisted that Marilyn Mosby had too many conflicts of interest in this Case. Mosby, who charged 6 Baltimore police officers with 28 criminal charges, wants justice to apply equally, to those with and without a badge. For this, the police department fears her, as a police department with a track record of brutality should fear any prosecutor.
Unfortunately, neither app nor prosecutor may be enough to fix what has been broken. I think of William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, written 60 years ago. Golding’s protagonists find themselves stranded outside of society, on an island with no structure. Our morality is skin deep, and it is critically dependent on the integrity of our social structures. Without society, humans are animals. They are savages. In a city like Baltimore – where children give birth to babies, where poverty abounds, where existing social structures have all but failed – its citizens run the risk of becoming their most basic animalistic selves. If they follow the example set by the police, they surely will destroy each other.
Democracy demands a rule of law, a certain enforcement of the mutually agreed upon moral standards. When the police claim to enforce this standard, then are found to debase that very standard, we have no hope. We need police to be monitored and enforced just as we sometimes need enforcement. It is a two-way street, and that is why we must support the Baltimore state’s attorney in her investigation.
More guns, less crime. Go out and buy yourself a gun! You’ve been listening to Come and Talk It! with Michael Cargill.