Occupations across the country have born the brunt of some violent police tactics, and in a world where everyone has a camera-phone, a lot of their brutish behavior has been caught in photographs and on video.
Police work is difficult and dangerous, and the majority of officers on the street behave like pros. When it comes to controlling crowds of angry protesters, they’re often put into tense situations and ordered to do things they may not want to do by commanders who are far removed from the scene. I’ve witnessed a lot of restraint from cops, which of course doesn’t make the news.
But being human, cops are also prone to fear and rage like everyone else. A minority of cops, like a minority of protesters, lose their cool in tense situations. The difference is that they aren’t amateurs – they’re well trained and have guidelines that they’re required to follow. When a cop loses his or her cool, it can be terrifying. And when a protester exercising his or her right to assemble and speak is a victim of excessive force, it also violates the United States Constitution.
Unlike protesters, cops are also armed, and it’s difficult to hold them accountable for their actions when they don’t behave professionally. Most civilian review boards are toothless and ineffectual. But, as Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union told AlterNet last month, “public video recording has dramatically changed the landscape of police accountability, no question about it. It’s a lot harder for police to sweep allegations of abuse under the rug when it’s on video and on YouTube.”