New Jersey Police Shooting Leads To Renewed Call For Body Cameras

Campaigners Call For State Investigation Into Fatal New Jersey Police Shooting
Jerame Reid was executed by a cop known to him

AFRICANGLOBE – The fatal police shooting of Jerame Reid, a 36 year-old Black New Jersey man, has thrown the issue of police body cameras back into the spotlight, as experts say recently released dashboard footage raises as many questions as it answers.

Reid was killed during a confrontation with police in Bridgeton, New Jersey, on 30 December, his death captured by a dashboard camera in the patrol car parked feet away. The footage was published by the South Jersey Times on Wednesday following a public records request.

The video shows the moments before Reid’s death, including the run up to the incident, and his shooting. He was shot by two officers after the black Jaguar he was riding in was stopped for a traffic infringement. The car’s driver, Leroy Tutt, 46, can be seen holding his hands out the window throughout the incident.

What the video does not show is what the officer saw inside the black Jaguar, as Reid is repeatedly warned not to reach for a handgun allegedly found on the scene.

In the video, officer Braheme Days approaches Reid from the passenger side of the car. He calls to his partner, Roger Worley, when he says he sees a gun in the glove compartment of the vehicle. The tension quickly escalates.

An enhanced version of the video, reported by CNN, appears to show Days pulling out a silver object shaped like a gun from the passenger window of the car.

“Don’t you f*cking move! Show me your hands! Show me your hands!” Days shouts.

“I’m showing you my hands,” says someone from inside the car.

Days then accuses Reid of “reaching” for a weapon.

Reid then gets out of the car, with what appears to be his hands up. He is then shot dead, killed within two minutes of officers approaching the vehicle. Bridgeton police have provided scant information on the case but said a handgun was “revealed” at the scene.

Experts say the footage alone, lacking the officer’s point of view, is not enough to draw conclusions about whether the use of force was justified.

“Does the officer at this point see something [a weapon], or does he make a mistake? It’s unclear to me,” said John Decarlo, an associate professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a former Connecticut police chief.

“This is a really great argument for body-cams,” Decarlo continued. “Unlike the dash-cam, the body-cam would have shown us from the officer’s perspective what he was seeing. It would have answered these questions. It would have provided clearcut evidence as to what had transpired between the officer and the individual,” he said.

Decarlo’s assessment echoes that of many, activists and politicians alike, who have called for expanded use of the technology amid a spate of high-profile police brutality cases.

The campaign to make police use of body cameras mandatory intensified across the United States in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson, who shot dead unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer.

Brown’s parents have called for a law that would require every police officer in the US to wear a body camera. In December President Obama called for a $263m spending package to reform police departments across the country, which could lead to the purchase of an extra 50,000 body cameras for police, but resisted calls for mandatory implementation.

Alexa Van Brunt, a clinical assistant professor at Northwestern University Law School, also noted the lack of footage from inside the Jaguar.

“In this case, you can’t exactly see what he’s doing in the car – you can make inferences,” she said “But I think the real question is what happens in the aftermath.”

“One of the huge shortcomings of cameras is unless you have accountability from the top down … whether or not an event like this is caught on camera is really irrelevant.”

And whether such incidents are filmed or not, Van Brunt said, it is unlikely everyone will agree on what they depict. Researchers time and again have found that people see media, like video footage, through their own biases, a phenomenon referred to as “hostile media effect”.

“I see serious over-escalation [in the video],” said Van Brunt “And sure, a vast population would say, ‘I’m sure the police officer was under threat, and he did what he had to do.’”

That the dashboard camera was filming before the minor traffic violation occurred could be an indication police were already following the men, since such cameras are not often set to record for an entire shift, Decarlo said.

Bridgeton police declined to comment on their dashboard camera recording policy, and instead directed the us to file a formal request for information.

Bridgeton police do not wear body cameras “yet”, city officials said. “Funding is the issue,” the city administrator, Dale Goodreau, said. The New Jersey legislature is considering a bill that would introduce the equipment.

National police reform advocates have called on the New Jersey state attorney general to investigate the shooting, arguing that the Cumberland county prosecutor’s office is not impartial enough to deal with the matter fairly.

It remains unclear if the shooting will be referred to a grand jury.

 

By: Jessica Glenza And Oliver Laughland

 

 

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