The shooting death of a young, unarmed African American in Ferguson, Missouri has polarized racial tensions in the country more than any event since the Trayvon Martin shooting death in Sanford, Florida over two years ago. Some argue that in Ferguson it was a case of self-defense on the part of the police officer, others that it was a clear cut case of someone gunned down because of their skin color, and related to that the perceived, rather than real, danger he posed to the officer. What is missing in all this is any video evidence of what happened between the two individuals.

A similar problem was posed by the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. The housing complex where this occurred had a history of crime problems, including break-ins, but there were no cameras to record such incidents, much less what occurred between Zimmerman and Martin that night. We had only Zimmerman’s word to go on, and the jury had to decide if his story was believable or not. While they found him not guilty, a video document of what occurred may have resulted in a different verdict.

As it turns out, the US is largely behind the curve when it comes to city safety and video surveillance. While many of our metropolitan areas like New York have greatly increased video surveillance since 9/11, smaller cities like Ferguson and Sanford tend to lack such technology, despite having high enough crime rates to justify it. This problem is made all the more glaring when one considers that Ferguson has very expensive armored personnel carriers, which were rolled out into the streets during violent street protests, but lacks comprehensive video surveillance.

This needs to change. In the 21st century, we should not be Monday morning quarterbacking tragedies like Ferguson, where pundits from the left and right argue about what might have happened, but lack the proper electronic eyes and ears to make their cases. This compromises the safety of all citizens, including law enforcement officers, and complicates the justice process as well, because juries lack the sort of hard evidence that would make it much easier to reach a unified and just verdict.

In economically challenged areas of the world like Mexico, high crime areas are already benefiting from comprehensive, highly intelligent video surveillance systems, which work in tandem with command centers and emergency systems as well as access control to automate and improve the whole security process.  By deploying technology such as License Plate Recognition, Video Management Systems and Facial Recognition, law enforcement can lead security initiatives that are proactive as well as provide essential forensic evidence.

It has been reported that after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, when violent confrontations ensued between police and protesters, that some of the officers had small cameras that they wore on their helmets. That is a step in the right direction. In an era where just about everyone has a camera phone where they can record events in real time, we should expect no less from the communities in which we live. That way, both everyday citizens and law enforcement will both know in advance of any kind of incident that it will not just be their word against someone else’s but the unblinking eye of the camera.  

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed by Aluisio Figueiredoand those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of SDM Magazine. SDM Magazine is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Aluisio Figueiredo.