How exactly do you think we can go about making the footage on policeman body-cams more accessible for public viewing? What reforms need to be put in place?

For Shira Ovide

Salutations! My name is Aemilia Row Harbutt, I am a Y1 (Junior) at Bard High School Early College Queens, and I just celebrated my seventeenth birthday last weekend.

I’ve read a variety of your articles for the New York Times for class, and every single one seems very relevant to our changing times. However, one stood out in particular to me. Your article “Can Body Cameras Improve Policing?” seemed to scream social justice and Black Lives Matter and how they connect to technology and this has never been more relevant.

You speak about how having police cams has helped and harmed our society. The increase in body cams has led to “more transparency into police activity,” and this is exactly what we need. You emphasize how difficult it is to get ahold of this police body-cam footage; the videos are “not always made available quickly or in full to the public,” and on the off chance that they are released “the video is not conclusive and it leaves a void that gets filled by accusations that police are hiding something.” Overall, that transparency is needed. It is absolutely necessary to know exactly what these policemen are doing since we put our lives in their supposedly reliable hands. This need has never been more present than in 2020.

This infamous year, 2020, has been very eventful for many reasons: Coronavirus, forest fires, quarantine, Zoom, and also the topic of Black Lives Matter. The issues involving police brutality against black and brown citizens has been an underlying presence in our society for what seems like forever. But in May 2020 with the release of the video showing George Floyd being murdered my Minneapolis police officers, the topic of racial injustice and police brutality seemed to bubble up to the surface of every conversation in our society.

In this time, the importance of communication, education, and self-awareness/assessment so much more apparent. Along with this, the importance of technology. These incidents of police brutality happen so frequently, but only a fraction of the time do we find footage of these events. With George Floyd we have a video from a passerby. This video helped bring to light the issue at hand.

But think about how much easier it would be to have access to police cam footage all the time. To have a first hand, reliable source into the happenings of police encounters. To have solid proof that can help this movement and help save lives.

And so I’ve set the stage for my question for you:

How exactly do you think we can go about making the footage on policeman body-cams more accessible for public viewing? What reforms need to be put in place?