Camera phones and police brutality

One very considerable advantage of the greater dissemination of video phones is increased ability to effectively document police brutality and other abuses of power. A recent example example involves UCLA police officers gratuitously using tazers on students in a library. While that situation cannot be entirely understood from the YouTube video, it supports testimony given elsewhere that the use of force was excessive and inappropriate. Hopefully, these tazer-happy UCLA police officers will end up in jail. At least one other incident filmed with a camera phone and uploaded to YouTube is being investigated by the FBI. That incident is also discussed in this editorial.

As I have said again and again here: protection of the individual from unreasonable or arbitrary power – in the hands of government and its agents – is a crucial part of the individual security of all citizens in democratic states. In a world where normal activities increasingly take place within sight of CCTV cameras, it’s nice to see that recording technology can also work for the protection of individuals or – at least – improve the odds of things being set to rights after abuse takes place.

Just don’t expect for it to be impossible for people to determine whose camera was used to shoot the video. Apparently, output from digital cameras can be linked to the specific unit that produced it.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “Camera phones and police brutality”

  1. More prosaically:

    Homer Simpson is invited to be a guest on Smartline. Kent Brockman interviews him.

    Kent: Mr. Simpson, how do you respond to the charges that petty vandalism such as graffiti is down eighty percent, while heavy sack-beatings are up a shocking nine hundred percent?

    Homer: Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent.

    Forfty percent of all people know that.

    Kent: I see. Well, what do you say to the accusation that your [vigilante] group has been causing more crimes than it’s been preventing?

    Homer: [amused] Oh, Kent, I’d be lying if I said my men weren’t
    committing crimes.

    Kent: [pause] Well, touche’.

    — Effective interview responses, “Homer the Vigilante”

  2. ULCA taser-cop has a history of sadistic violence:

    Cory Doctorow: One of the UCLA cops who was caught on video torturing a student in shackles with a tazer has a record of sadistic, violent attacks on the job.

    “LAist has a great rundown of the history of Terrence Duren, an 18-year veteran of the UCPD and the ‘taser-happy’ officer in last week’s incident. Among his greatest hits, it seems that he’s been fired from a ‘real’ police force, recommended by the University for dismissal after choking a frat boy with a night stick (UCPD just suspended him), and tried after *shooting a homeless man* (who survived).”

    (Source: BoingBoing)

  3. Note to self: Bruce Schneier speaking events in London:

    London School of Economics
    March 19, 2007
    London, UK

    InfoSec Europe
    April 25, 2007
    London, UK

    See listing.

  4. The high availability of personal video recording devices have made it difficult for the police to conceal brutal violence at this weekend’s G20 protests. I’ve written a post on potential video evidence of agent-provocateur tactics (

    This video of peaceful protestors, charged after completing the singing of our national anthem, is chilling:
    short version:

  5. Smartphones seem to have been one of the main enabling conditions for Black Lives Matter and the ongoing protests in the US against police inequity and violence.

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