The recent events of police shooting unarmed black men have called for universal police wearable cameras to deter police from using excessive force while having the ability to document all events for a later review (The New York Times 4/14/2015).

It should always be stressed that on average, most men and women in law enforcement are good people who are serving the community. Police killings of individuals in unnecessary circumstances are unfortunate and ought not to happen, but the debate should not paint the rest of the police force as a racist entity looking to harass people of color. If there should be a productive debate, it should focus on realistic preventive mechanism that would decrease such tragedies quickly in the short term.

Police wearable body cameras are a great start a priori for decreasing unnecessary police brutality against citizens while also protecting the honest police from false testimonies from bad witnesses. The camera provides a constant awareness for the officer that all actions are being recorded and reviewable by a third party, so there is constant pressure for the officer to act in high standard. On the other hand, the officer’s camera also provides a continuous monitoring on the behalf of the officer such that in the event of a public dispute, the camera can provide a clear witness from the officer’s perspective.

While police body cameras provide a significant preventative mechanism against unnecessary police brutality, sadly, there ought to be a second step: citizen’s right to record videos. There ought to be clear, categorical laws for the right of citizens to record videos of police officers in the event of a dispute. Except in extraordinary circumstances in which evacuation order is necessary (such as right after a terrorist attack or a natural disaster), the police ought to allow and accommodate citizens from recording not only the police officers but also the general scene in dispute as long as it does not hamper police activity and also does not endanger the safety of the citizen recording the video. If the courts allow general witness testimony, why not allow potential witnesses to also use camera to provide a clearer recording of events?

There might be arguments to be made that citizen constantly recording police activities not only harass the officers on duty but also inevitably will bring a hostile division between the police and the community. Indeed, citizens recording police activities are a “check” against police’s unnecessary brutality. However, the police body cameras also provide a counter witness in favor of the honest police officers. If citizens recording police activities do harass police activity, then that event is captured on police body camera as well. If citizens break the law, the police can refer to the recordings on their own body camera as evidence in court.

Consequentially, we will inevitably be living in an era of constant surveillance by both public and private devices. While such surveillance can mitigate police brutalities and false witness testimonies by the public, it is sad that our society has to come to a surveillance solution to prevent tragedies. If more people from the police and citizens alike were a little bit more honest, we would not have to rely on constant camera recordings to prevent tragedies.

After September 11, 2001, there have been calls within the George W. Bush administration to designate captured terrorist suspects as enemy combatants and have them either be tried in a military tribunal or be held indefinitely (The New York Times 11/19/2003). One of the reasons for this designation was that the civilian court system would be inadequate for putting these suspected terrorists on trial. Furthermore, the public nature of these trials would endanger national security by having potential classified information revealed to the public and in turn aid the terrorists.

However, the Boston bombing trial is yet another example of the resilience of the America's civilian court system of handling terror cases. There was no need to violate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's constitutional rights for the civilian jury to render a decision of guilty in all charges laid out by the federal prosecutors. During the trial, no national secrets have to be revealed by the prosecution, because all civilian protocols were followed during and after the arrest of Tsarnaev's arrest.

Granted, Tsarnaev's terrorist act was not a coordinated attack with any pre-existing terror group but instead was an individual act. If the country faced a different situation with an international coordinated terrorist attack, such as the September 11th attack, then the prosecutorial evidence might have included information from the national intelligence network, which might contain sensitive national secrets.

Even then, there is no reason why the civilian court could not adapt to such cases. The Tsarnaev's case shows that the country does not necessarily need to prosecute terror suspects outside the civilian system to serve justice. Even if critical prosecutorial evidence includes sensitive national secrets, the civilian court system can apply appropriate measures, including sealing such evidence from the public court records. Even in normal criminal cases, not all evidences are revealed to the public, especially graphic and gruesome photographs of the crime.

One of the benefits of the civilian court system is the public ability to review and hopefully come to terms with the justice system. It also shows the rest of the world that the United States treats all suspects with dignity under the rule of law, even to heinous terrorists. Our civilian justice system, the one of the pride pillars of our country, stands firm.

President Obama needs to make several key points in his speech before engaging in a conflict against ISIS.


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