The Surveillance State Made Personal: Why Everyone Should Have a Body Camera
Once, a long time ago, I was assaulted by an ex-girlfriend. I use the word “assault” but that’s because that is the legal definition. The simpler truth, unpainted with the soft language of the victimized, is that she punched me in face several times because I wanted her out of my house.
So I called the police.
Not because I wanted her arrested but because I wanted her out of my house. Hell, I’d been punched by far larger people with far more malicious intent than her.
She patiently waited for the police and, when they arrived, without a hint of remorse or pause, she told them that I had assaulted her. She accused me of stalking her and luring her to my house and assaulting her.
I knew I was fucked. Her words against mine.
Images of prison flooded into my vision, of my life flushed down the toilet, of the devastation it would cause.
I was so shocked by her statement, at the overwhelming untruth of it, all I did was shrug and say, “I just want her to leave.” The officers assessed the situation, one escorting her to the lawn, the other, hands on his belt near his gun, questioning me. After ten minutes or so, they determined either she was lying or that they couldn’t decide who was lying but ultimately drove her to her car and followed her home.
I sat in my chair and contemplated what was going to happen. She was an activist. She was a woman of color. She had serious ties with the justice system and law professors as close friends. I felt trapped.
An hour later, she came back. Pleading with me to let her in so we could talk about it. When I wouldn’t, she broke my front window with a brick. I finally agreed to sit down, her on one side of the locked screen door and me on the other, and she calmed down. I took my phone, hit voice memo and record, and after 30 minutes got her to admit on the recording that she made it up to hurt me, that I had not assaulted her, that she had punched me rather than the other way around. I had it on tape and I told her so.
I still have that recording on a CD somewhere in a box. You know, just in case.
On May 20, activist Shaun King shared yet another story of a police officer pulling over a black woman and the subsequent horrors of justice so common in that scenario.
“Sherita Dixon Cole just happens to be a close personal friend of Civil Rights Attorney and my close friend Lee Merritt. These are the facts he was able to get together after speaking with Sherita’s family:
On May 20th, 2018 at approximately 1:30AM Sherita Dixon Cole was pulled over in Waxahachie, TX by a Texas State Trooper — Officer Hubbard, near a abandoned car dealership (I287 South & I35 South). She was told she was being stopped because Hubbard expected she was driving while intoxicated. Cole voluntarily performed and passed all DUI/DWI protocol including a breathalyzer. However, Hubbard decided he “didn’t like [her] attitude” and that he was going to take her to jail anyway. He handcuffed her hands behind her back and placed Cole in the front passenger seat of his patrol vehicle. Hubbard then took a seat beside Cole and placed his hand on her thigh. He asked her if she wanted to go home as he hiked up her skirt. He told her that she could earn her way home, if she really wanted to go.
Cole had called her boyfriend to the scene of the stop when she was first pulled over. He arrived just as the officer began to accost her. Hubbard asked Cole who was in the car. When she explained it was her fiancé he asked her, was he armed. When she said he was not, Hubbard retorted “If you tell him what happened he will be armed and his fire arm will be visible when I have to shoot him.” Hubbard went out to speak with Cole’s boyfriend and allowed him to speak with her briefly in his presence. She told him that she passed the DUI/DWI protocol but the officer said he was taking her in anyway “because of [her] attitude.” Hubbard immediately ended the conversation and told Cole he was taking her to the Ellis County Jail. Her fiancé told Hubbard that he would follow them to the jail but Hubbard warned him that he could not follow him and would be arrested if he tried. Cole’s fiancé drove a short distance up the road and waited for the officer to head toward the jail.”
He wrote that she reported being sexually assaulted to the county jail and they refused to take her in for medical treatment. That very evening, the Texas Department of Public Safety responded that the body cam footage of the arrest did not support her claims.
The Faceborg commenting nose-bleed sitters responded in outrage. Apparently, here was another instance that supported the trend. “We believe HER!” was the online cry. King was apoplectic and tweeted without cease about the injustice, that her character was unassailable, demanding DNA testing on the officer, alleged a departmental cover up and insisted the department release the body cam footage to the public.
So they did.
And she lied.
Upon watching the two hours of video, King responded on Medium:
“Earlier today I was able to review nearly two hours of body camera footage provided by the police department. The footage appears to be authentic and trustworthy. At no time does it show any of the horrible allegations originally made by Sherita Dixon-Cole. The officer never threatens her or her fiancé as she described. No sexual assault of any kind takes place. From all indications the officer, Daniel Hubbard, was very professional and patient throughout the ordeal. The whole thing was rather routine and painfully normal.”
There are those who have made the case that, due to decades of police not believing women in assault and rape cases, that it is time for all men to be held accountable. I’ve read think pieces that state that hatred of all men (misandry) is now a just stance and that calls for due process are tantamount to upholding the Patriarchy.
“We believe HER.”
Using the soft language of the victimized,
- a dirty joke is sexual harassment
- breaking up with someone is abusive behavior
- laughing at someone online is assault
Had there not been a functioning camera recording the arrest, Cole would have been successful in using the hysteria of our times to destroy the life of what appears to be an upstanding and honorable peace officer.
Here is where I am faced with a legitimate quandary. How do I have a rational and logical discussion about these issues with people whom I love and respect when my natural — and I would argue, earned — skepticism conflicts so directly with the message that any doubt as to the honesty of accusations is tantamount to putting a boot to the neck of feminism and declaring allegiance to abuse and rape?
The hysteria is such that a recent exchange in which I pointed out the irony of someone who has used the theatrics of abuse narrative and the aforementioned soft language of the victimized whining about someone using the same tactics against her resulted in her mob all agreeing that I was psychotic and dangerous.
A friend was told he was not welcome to an event because he was considered ‘problematic’ and would violate their ‘safe space’ when it was discovered that he questioned the validity of the accusations against Woody Allen. (Something similar happened to me despite my working for a feminist cause for months prior.)
How do I have a conversation with people so entrenched in ideology that it feels somewhat like trying to reason with an avid Trump supporter?
Men should just listen, I'm told. But what if I listen and still disagree with the strident whole-cloth condemnation of behavior I consider ultimately benign? Does "You should just listen" mean that if I don't completely agree that I didn't fully listen? Does listening require me to turn off my brain?
I very much want to be an advocate for women (and men, and, hell, humans in general.) If being a non-thinking reactionary is what is being asked of me, I'm not at all certain I can comply nor would I want to.
More importantly than my perspective, what happens to Officer Hubbard after being falsely accused of rape and police brutality? Is he going to "believe her" the next time he has an assault reported? Or will his lens of personal experience color his perspective to begin doubting any woman's claims?
Maybe everyone should have a body camera and leave their recording apps on their smartphones in continuous ON position. At least with recorded evidence, those who would use a legitimate and necessary social activism for their own nefarious ends will be thwarted.
Or maybe it’ll just make them famous.