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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Predictions for 2016

I haven't been blogging at all lately. Mostly that's been from working as much overtime as possible to try to bring in something close to a living wage. In part it's been because I've been spending my precious BEU's in other ways. But it's also been because things have been pretty grim and it seems that nothing I can say will make any difference.

Many, many years ago I bought a journal from the Lee Valley Workshop. I imagined that I might use it to preserve my thoughts about the events of the day, and see how those thoughts held up over time, how history would judge those events. I put in one entry, about the single most important event of the day: the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which was consuming the nation and threatening the very stability of the Union. Remember that? Remember how important that was?

I never used it again. I still look at it from time to time. It's a really nice journal.

I've been thinking about something that I expect to happen in the near future, and then thought of something else that could almost be considered a fashion trend. I realized the two things are related, and one naturally flows to the other.

I see the time frame for both to be eighteen months, possibly far less. As this is April 2015, that would easily place both of these things well before the end of 2016. So I feel comfortable predicting both of these as things that will happen by the end of 2016:

1. Wearable cameras for the masses.  After several incidents involving police confrontations that were caught on dashcam or body cam, and countless others where an audio/video record of the event would have been very useful, many police departments are requiring their officers to wear body cameras. Which is nice, except that if there is ever a controversy over an encounter, only one side has access to and control over the records. There was a recent non-police interaction involving a reporter for ESPN and a staffer at a towing company, after which the towing company released a heavily-edited version of the altercation that presented the reported (who was keenly aware of the presence of the recording equipment, and addressed it directly) in a very negative light, but did not include any record of provocation by the staffer. If everybody is making their own record of every confrontation, this wouldn't be an issue.

There are several technical hurdles to overcome: Such recordings are illegal in many states, where both sides need to agree to a recording before it can begin. Recording of the police is still maintained to be illegal in some states (including Pennsylvania), though recent court findings have taken issue with this. Recording in some locations -  tunnels, for example - is considered a danger to national security. And most recorders store the record in the device, rather than in "the cloud" or some remote location - so destroying the recording device often destroys the record.

I expect these obstacles to fall away fairly quickly, and the prices of wearable cameras to drop to less than an iPhone.

2. Police killed in self-defense. Sometime before the end of 2016, a police officer will be killed while on duty. The person doing the killing will maintain that it was in self-defense. And a judge - or jury - will agree.

One of the recent events that have shaken this nation involved Walter Scott fleeing from police after an altercation following a traffic stop. Officer Michael Slager draws his gun, fires numerous times at close range, mortally wounds the fleeing victim, and then drops his TASER next to the man to create a justification for the shooting. All of this was captured on video by a passer-by on his way to work. Without this video, this would have been just another "good shoot."

The more  recent event happened to Freddie Gray. In a crime-ridden part of Baltimore, he spotted a police patrol and, for reasons unknown, fled from them. They gave chase and took him down, retroactively justifying their arrest based on his possession of a knife whose blade length exceeded legal limits. He was trundled into a prisoner transport van, unbelted, unsecured, and was taken for what a police union spokesman has suggested was a "rough ride" - after which he was found to have a nearly severed spine. He died of his injuries a week later. If Freddie Gray fled because he was afraid the police would kill him, he was right.

At some point someone in one of these confrontations will respond with deadly force, and maintain that they feared that if they did not, they would have been killed. A judge or jury somewhere will review the evidence and declare that, yes, the person acted in self-defense, and they will be free to go. (Until, of course, they are accidentally killed a week or two later. Oopsie.)

I'm not saying that I want to see this happen, or that it will be right. It won't be. I want to see bad cops off the streets, stripped of their badges and guns. I want to see criminals off the streets forever. But I see this thing as an inevitability. And I expect it to happen very soon. Probably before the end of 2016.

We'll see.