We put a lot of trust in cops. We need to. It is important to know that they are able to do their jobs with as little obstruction as the liberties we hold dear will allow. It is a potentially dangerous job that even if one is never in a position of having to pull out one’s sidearm is still stressful. They have been given the power of life and death over us, with provisions, and it is important that we can trust them with it. Which is why incidents like this one bother me so much.
It is also why, as Professor Turley points out, it is so important for citizens to be able to record the activities of the police. We need to remain constantly vigilant for this kind of abuse, or else it will become common place. We have no way of knowing for certain how often this happened before citizens began carrying recording devices, though it doesn’t take much of a leap to think it happened more often considering they were less likely to get caught. It is part of human nature. These men and women are no worse of people than the rest of us, but the power we trust them with throws them in temptation’s way, which is why we need to make sure we have buffers against the inevitable corruption power brings. First of those buffers should be a reasonably unrestrained ability for citizens to record their interactions with police.
Second on that list should be better training for cops. Some departments, not many any more, but some, do not require more than attending a police academy. In my sometimes humble opinion it should require no less than a four-year degree. It should also require annual or bi annual ethics courses for the entirety of one’s career and a similar schedule of courses training for conflict aversion and resolution. I am sure some forces have this kind of training available but it should be mandatory and regular.
Third the law needs to come down hard on those caught in such violations. As I said, the trust we give them, the potential for abuse that crosses the line into the truly horrific is too great. I am opposed to the death penalty and always will be, but an abuse of that trust, especially on the order displayed in this case, where the officers mock the victim for her powerlessness, should be met with the harshest penalty the law allows. The harm this corruption does to our entire society, to the psyche of the victim and to the safety of their fellow officers who now have to deal with a public that trusts them even less is too great to consider otherwise.
These ideas all represent the minimum that should be done to prevent this sort of thing from happening. There are likely a dozen or more ideas that I am sure some of you would like to share, and I hope you do, so we can share them with our leaders. If we fail to hold our guardians accountable, we fail them and we fail ourselves.