Live PD Exposes the Unjust Reality of Policing

Benjamin Olsen | @benpleasestop

As I sat down after work, I turned on the TV to the popular show Live PD. While I continued to watch, I counted off the violations of civil liberties and noticed the unjust reality of policing. The first thing I tuned into was a stop and search. The man’s crime? Not having lights on his bicycle. Biking in the dark without lights, while dangerous, is not against the law in his jurisdiction. In fact, after invading his privacy by patting him down, the officer let him go. Camera crews broadcasted this man’s face nationwide and violated his privacy. The man’s story remains unknown, but at least the nation got their thrill from seeing someone pulled over.

The Various Encounters on Live PD

A man in a Camaro was the next victim of Live PD. According to the officers, his windows were too dark, at night. The officers decided that the man’s window were too dark, despite it being the middle of the night. The officers also decided that his muffler was illegally modified upon further inspection,  I don’t know how you can tell without crawling under the car to check if the catalytic converter is there, but obviously this officer must have x-ray vision to know. This man was made late for his job, and his face was broadcast on Live PD to a viewership of thousands. This man’s employer or future employers may have seen him. Through the unscrupulous cinematography of Live PD, this man will be known as a criminal. 

The last stop I watched before I turned Live PD off in disgust was a report of an unresponsive male. The officer got out of his car and checked on the man. I was happily surprised as this was a feel-good moment of one human checking on another’s well-being. However, my stomach turned as they forced the man against their police car and proceeded to search him. They invaded his person because he had the gall to be homeless and want to sleep.

All three of these stops happened right after another and Live PD truly showed the ugly reality of modern policing. Taxpayers dollars are wasted on unnecessary traffic stops and unjust laws. We live in this country where the magic words to remove you from the car and get you searched are, “I smell weed.” You could be obeying all the laws of the land, and yet some bored police officer can make up some excitement for the masses to consume on Live PD.

The Brutal Reality Behind Law Enforcement

Law enforcement has become a bloated organ of both the local and federal government. A database ran by USA Today found that 85,000 officers had been investigated for misconduct in this decade. Roughly 30,000 of those had been thrown out of the profession. What this number fails to take into account is the infamous “blue wall of silence.” This refers to the internal camaraderie that officers have and their unwillingness to report fellow officers’ wrongdoings. 85,000 is a huge number when taken into account that there are 670,279 officers in the United States. That means that, if the trend holds steady, 9% of cops will be under investigation.

As of September, the Washington Post reports 614 people have been shot and killed. While a vast majority of these shooting happened while the victim possessed a firearm, 32 of those shot were unarmed. The law enforcement community should find this number unacceptable. Fearing for your life is understandable, but we need to take a closer look at what we allow police officers to do. Recent cases in the media, such as the firing of the officer that killed Eric Garner, are a step in the right direction. However, these incidents will not stop happening. These incidents continue to happen when the cameras are rolling. Live PD shows this on a smaller scale where civil liberties are at stake, but civil liberties and our lives are so closely entwined. We must not shy away from discussing ways to ensure that policing increasingly becomes just and fair. Live PD shows these infringements on TV and has the ability to ruin lives with a national audience watching.

Live PD: Ruining Lives, or Saving Them?

A local news outlet, the Missoulian, quoted Streetsboro City Council member John Ruediger as saying,

“In the very first episode, there was an incident with some adults but there were children in the shot, and none of their faces were blurred out one of the big concerns I had was these kids have to go to school the next day and how awful it could be for a child if their parent is involved in something horrific and it’s all over national TV with their faces unblurred. And they could be ridiculed or tormented or anything else.”

These children did not consent to be filmed, and yet they were nationally broadcasted alongside their parents. Did their parents consent to be filmed, or was it forced upon them because being stopped by an officer waives all rights? Our rights are being stamped out in horrifying ways. Live PD shows those infringements in dazzling HD.

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