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Police Should Be on – Not Behind – Cameras PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 05:43

Police body cameras are all the rage lately. Al Sharpton wants them used to monitor the activities of cops. Ann Coulter wants them used to “shut down” Al Sharpton. The White House wants them because, well, they’re a way to look both “tough on police violence” and “tough on crime” by spending $263 million on new law-enforcement technology.

When Al Sharpton, Ann Coulter, and the president of the United States agree on anything, my immediate, visceral reaction is extreme skepticism. In this case, the known facts support that skepticism.

(Editor’s note: According to a recent article in the The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus, Hampton, Illinois, recently began using body cameras, and the Davenport, Bettendorf, and East Moline police departments have either tested them or plan to acquire them.)

It’s exceedingly unlikely that widespread use of police body cameras would reduce the incidence or severity of unjustified police violence. We’ve already seen the results of numerous technology “solutions” to that problem.

The introduction of mace and Tasers to police-weapons inventories encouraged a hair-trigger attitude toward encounters with “suspects” (“suspect” being law-enforcement-ese for “anyone who isn’t a cop”). Their supposed non-lethality made it safer to substitute violent action for peaceful talk.

The introduction of military weaponry and vehicles to policing hasn’t produced de-escalation, either. Quite the opposite, in fact: Now we get to watch small-town police departments stage frequent re-enactments of the Nazi occupation of Paris in towns across America.

And police-car “dash cams”? That’s obviously the most direct comparison. But the dash cam often seems to malfunction, or the police department mysteriously loses its output, when a credible claim of abusive police behavior arises.

On the other hand, it’s absolutely certain that widespread use of police body cameras would increase the scope and efficacy of an increasingly authoritarian surveillance state.

The White House proposal calls for an initial rollout of 50,000 cameras. Does anyone doubt that the output of those cameras would be kept, copied, cross-referenced, and analyzed against law-enforcement databases (including but not limited to facial-recognition databases) on a continuing basis?

Assuming a camera attaches to a particular officer with an eight-hour shift (rather than being passed around at shift changes for 24-hour use), that’s 400,000 hours per day of random, warrant-less searches to be continuously mined for probable cause to investigate and arrest people. Even George Orwell didn’t go so far as to have 1984’s Thought Police carry portable cameras everywhere they went!

Video technology is certainly part of the solution to police violence, but that solution should remain in the hands of regular people, not the state. More and more of us every day come into possession of the ability to record video on the spot, while instantly porting it to Internet storage so that it can’t be destroyed at the scene or tampered with after the fact. Cops need to be on cameras they don’t control.

But part of the solution is still just part of the solution. Even when cameras catch violent, abusive, criminal cops in action – as, for example, when business security cameras filmed Fullerton, California, police officers Manuel Ramos and Jay Cicinelli beating homeless man Kelly Thomas to death in 2011 – it’s incredibly hard to get prosecutions and even harder to get convictions.

Ubiquitous video monitoring of state actors by regular people is a start. But the only real way to guarantee and end to police violence is to bring an end to state “law enforcement” – in fact, to the state itself.

Thomas L. Knapp is senior news analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS.org), where this commentary originally appeared.

 
Blame Can Be Spread Widely for Minimum-Wage Failure PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 07 December 2014 16:41

Pretty much every Statehouse finger of blame was pointing north toward Chicago for the minimum-wage-hike bill’s failure during the legislative veto session that ended last week.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel does indeed have a lot of explaining to do. His decision to move up a vote to pass a $13-an-hour minimum wage for his city completely undercut Springfield’s efforts to pass a statewide minimum wage capped everywhere at $11 an hour.

 
Internet-Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, a Losing Bet for the Rest of Us PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by Ron Paul   
Wednesday, 26 November 2014 09:47

Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose “crony capitalism” or “cronyism.” Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.

For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling. It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.

 
GOP Legislators Overeager About Appointments PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 23 November 2014 05:13

Whenever a new governor is about to be sworn in, one of the most popular Springfield parlor games is figuring out who is on their way out and who is on their way in.

Of course, when a new governor is sworn in from a different party, the “who is out” part is relatively easy – pretty much everybody without civil-service job protection is out. Governor-elect Bruce Rauner is a Republican who just defeated Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, so almost all of Quinn’s people are surely gone.

But who will Rauner bring in to run the government? I cannot tell you how many times I’m asked that question every day.

Much of the recent local speculation has focused on Republican state legislators, partly because most of the people closest to the outsider Rauner are unknown to the Springfield crowd. Legislators, on the other hand, are very well known. Some of those legislators are not-so-subtly floating their own names; some are just naturally assumed to be on a short list.

As a result, there are so many rumors going around about so many legislators being “sure thing” appointments that I long ago lost track of the count. It seems at times that the number could be half of the Republican caucus.

 
Rauner Should Be Able to Work with Madigan PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 16 November 2014 05:23

Last December, Bruce Rauner appeared on a WLS Radio talk show and revealed that he planned to form a new campaign committee to counter the power of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“We’re gonna raise a PAC, we’re gonna raise a fund dedicated to the state legislature, members of both parties who take the tough votes,” Rauner said. “We’ve gotta protect the members who take tough votes.”

“Right now,” Rauner continued, “Madigan controls the legislature from his little pot of cash. It isn’t that much money. And he runs the whole state government out of that pot. We need a pro-business, pro-growth, pro-limited-government, pro-tax-reduction PAC down there in Springfield working with the legislature for those who take tough votes.”

Word is that Rauner’s new legislative PAC will be launched relatively soon – perhaps after the governor-elect’s transition committee has finished its job.

 
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