Police misconduct is a persistent issue in the United States that undermines public trust in law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a whole. The video of George Floyd’s arrest and murder played an irreplaceable role in bringing attention to the case and sparking nationwide discussions about the state of policing in America. The video, showing former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Mr. Floyd’s neck for several minutes, also helped convict Mr. Chauvin of murder at trial. Recording police activity is an important means of holding officers accountable for their actions and protecting citizens from abuse of power. Despite this, many people are hesitant to record the police due to fear of retaliation or legal consequences. While there been an increase in the number of videos of police misconduct being recorded and shared, police officers are rarely held accountable. Democratizing investigation procedures, establishing civilian oversight boards with independent prosecutors, is crucial in ensuring police accountability and building public trust. This note posits that a legislative solution be enacted to provide a uniform framework for affirming the right to record police and establishing civilian oversight boards. Its goal is to flip the current surveillance state, which prioritizes the privacy rights of police officers over those of citizens, on its head and provide civilians a meaningful tool with which they may hold their law enforcement officers accountable. In light of the lack of accountability, transparency, and systemic bias resulting from internal investigations, the civilian oversight boards will be tasked with overseeing misconduct investigations. Such oversight boards should be granted broad investigatory power and equipped with an independent prosecutor. By empowering citizens, this solution will help address the surveillance imbalance and hold our government officials accountable.
Michael G. Brewster,
Policing the Police: Establishing the Right to Record and Civilian Oversight Boards to Oversee America’s Police,
88 Brook. L. Rev.
Available at: https://brooklynworks.brooklaw.edu/blr/vol88/iss3/7