Story by Noor Alahmadi, reporter
More police departments around the country have started implementing the use of body cameras.
When Eric Garner’s death was caught on camera, massive public outcry spread across the nation calling for the use of body cameras as a solution for police brutality incidents.
“We just received about $3,000,000 worth of funding that we will be able to start using,” Art Acevedo, Austin Police Department Chief, said. “We plan on rolling out 500 cameras this next fiscal year. Hopefully next year we will get the remainder of the funds so everybody will have a body camera.”
Linguistics major Zac Conard likes the idea of police body cameras.
“It’s fantastic that they are being held accountable for what they do,” Conard said. “The fact that we can monitor them and see what they’re doing I find reassuring.”
Another student, Emily Hoelscher, wasn’t as enthusiastic.
“I feel so so,” Hoelscher said. “Honestly it depends on the people and how they use it. I feel iffy about it.”
Hoelscher says that body cameras can be easily manipulated in favor of the police, a view mirrored by Nelson Linder, president of Austin’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“It’s not enough,” Linder said. “Police brutality is a symptom of a much larger problem in this country.”
According to Linder, the deep rooted racism in the U.S. must be addressed if any sort of change is to be made. “The viable lessons of social progress need to be learned and the citizens need to fight the battles locally,’ Linder said.
“You need to change things from within,” Linder said.
Black Lives Matter gathered at the Capitol September 19 to protest the multiple police brutality incidents against members of the black community. Conversely, a rally consisting of police supporters,calling themselves Blue Lives Matter, had a rally that same day in support of the police officers who had lost their lives in the line of duty. Acevedo asked that any APD in attendance to not wear their uniform.
“Because I support Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean I don’t believe the vast majority of police officers are good people,” Acevedo said. “Join us in holding the bad apples accountable and help lift up the good ones. Don’t believe the false narrative that the community of color doesn’t support police. They not only support good policing, they demand and deserve it.”
Acevedo’s public support of both rallies has been viewed as controversial to some in the black community.
Margaret Haule, founder of the Austin chapter of Black Lives Matter, considered Blue Lives Matter to be counterproductive to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The hijacking of the Black Lives Matter rally by the Blue Lives Matter rally wasn’t created to foster dialogue,” Haule said.
“[Acevedo] cannot support the efforts of both Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, while also expecting any sort of positive change for the black community,” Linder said.
His main complaint about the Blue Lives Matter rally was that the organizer, Robert Chody, a former APD officer whose use of force in the form of a choke hold, caused a 15 year old African-American boy to go into a seizure.
“I told [Acevedo] not to do it,” said Linder. “Robert Chody worked for APD and choked a kid, yet he still organized [the rally] with Art’s approval.”
Acevedo has yet to respond to Linder’s accusations.
“I do think that people understand that the police are getting a lot of bad press and it’s deserved,” said Lee Aidman, who’s studying Game Development. “But they understand that the police are good in general.”