top of page

Debate over Body Cameras on Police is a Diversion

Our media is devoted to looking everywhere and discussing anything except the underlying structural challenges that give rise to so many problems. I wrote this in 2018.

Op-Ed | The Oakland Tribune

Let’s not spend another minute talking about body cameras until we’ve exhausted the debate over the economic and social oppression that we’ve created and maintained. The last thing we need are the talking heads, lobbyists and wannabe leaders cluttering our public discussion with endless – and ultimately meaningless – debate about the myriad merits and challenges of affixing a camera on every policeman in the United States.
The killings of young black men by police – and the concomitant failure to bring perpetrators to justice – are no more than the obvious outcome of the oppressive forces which maim, dehumanize and ostracize a huge and growing swath of our citizenry.
Cameras will have no impact on the hopelessness, fury and self-destructive behavior that understandably manifests themselves among so many young men and women. The thousands of killings and shootings within the war-zone-like neighborhoods of our cities won’t abate with the advent of body cameras. The deep wounds of slavery, Jim Crow and systemic racism, nor the humiliation and isolation borne of poverty, will not be affected one iota by the advent of more videos.
This is a time to dig in for the long haul. Now is the time to educate each other about the day-to-day pernicious impacts of the current economic and judicial systems. Now is the time to reject the passive and arguably deliberate ineffective Democratic and Republican parties. Now is the time to turn off the television news, put down our iPhones and wade into the challenges that are right under our noses.
Each of us has the capacity to be understanding, to be helpful, to be innovative and, most importantly, to do the most mundane chores required to bring about greater justice. No long term progress will be made until hundreds of thousands – indeed, millions – of us deliberately, and with optimism, reach out and contribute over the long term. The one-day-a-year or quarter volunteer opportunities won’t cut it. The check writing alone won’t cut it. And, most important, the attitude of “I can’t make a difference” must be crushed.
It’s ironic that this feeling of individual powerlessness has become the kryptonite of our time. We have been showered with remarkable tools of change that our forbearers couldn’t imagine. We have been shown how men and women throughout the Middle East and Asia – even in the face of death – have bravely used these tools to promote justice. Yet, we have barely put them to use in our struggle for justice. Instead we glorify and reward with obscene riches, those who use these tools in the service of hyper-personalized advertising.
Ignore the body camera blather. Pick one of the many groups in your community that are doing good work and let them know you want to pitch in.
David Simpson is a resident of San Francisco.
Image Description and Credit: A Los Angeles Police officer wears a body camera during a demonstration for media in January. Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press Archives


bottom of page