Using Video to Counter Police Violence

In the days after a New York grand jury declined to indict an NYPD officer in the death of Eric Garner, many people echoed Mr. Garner’s mother who asked “Were they looking at the same video that the rest of the world was looking at?”

To critics of police violence, the video – which showed Officer Daniel Pantaleo using a banned chokehold to arrest Mr. Garner – was proof enough of wrongdoing.

WITNESS’ Executive Director Yvette Alberdingk Thijm published an essay on The Huffington Post tackling the question of whether or not video can be effective in preventing and ending police violence. She writes:

Reversing the practice of vicious policing demands an urgent overhaul of the judicial system. That, surely, takes more than a shaky, citizen-shot video. But the collective strength of citizen video – the ability for so many of us to document and the growing volume of documentation – is in fact exactly the right tool to catalyze these much needed changes. The continual light shed on abuses will make a difference. But more needs to be done for that to become a reality.

She outlined several ways that judicial systems and technology providers can help ensure that verified video can be used effectively in cases involving police violence. She also urged activists and citizens to continue their use of video:

While it may feel counterintuitive in the wake of yet another jury who disregarded a clear-cut video, I urge you to join the band of “little sisters and brothers” armed with cameras, capturing videos collectively showing patters of systemic abuse. Facilitated by improved digital technology to share and organize, we have the power to ensure, as our nation’s prosecutor said, “fairness for all.”

Yvette was also a guest on CUNY TV’s “Independent Sources” to discuss this topic. She was joined by activist Jason del Aquila of the watchdog group El Grito del Sunset Park.

Also check out our blog where we discuss police violence and video across different contexts from Mexico, Brazil, the US and more.




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