The 1991 beating of Rodney King by the Los Angeles Police Department, which came to light after being caught on video by a citizen trying out a video camera, ushered in a new age of transparency and openness when it comes to law enforcement.
Since then, sound and vision from any number of sources - including cell-phone cams and pocket recorders, not to mention footage shot by police themselves - have captured law enforcement in action in a wide range of circumstances. Sometimes, the footage exonerates the police and sometimes it incriminates them. Always, though, we as citizens gain from having a better sense of how law enforcement operates, even (or especially) when what we see is hugely disturbing.
Due to the violence depicted and discussed in this video, viewer discretion is advised.
Reason.tv's Nick Gillespie talked with Reason columnist Radley Balko, proprietor of The Agitator and a long-time student of the increasing militarization of police. We asked Balko to talk about what he thinks are the three most-schocking videos of police abuse that have come to light so far in 2011.
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Ironically, Balko notes that widespread video of police at work gives rise to the misimpression that such violent abuse is on the rise. In fact, police are almost certainly more respectful of civil liberties than they were 50 or 60 years ago. He argues that it's precisely because citizens and watchdogs (including many with the law enforcement community) have more tools at their disposal to ferret out abuse that better practices are being employed.
Approximately 5.30 minutes. Shot and edited by Josh Swain, with camera assists by Meredith Bragg and Jim Epstein.
For longer videos of the incidents shown in the interview, go here (Utah police kill a man brandishing a golf club); here (Seattle police shoot and kill homeless man); and here (Michigan police caught on tape discussing unwarranted seizer of musician's equipment).