When Zach De La Rocha wrote that line in 1992 it was pertinent; and as of June 15th of this year, it remains relevant. In Seattle, Washington a teenager who is younger than these lyrics, (“Know Your Enemy”,) was punched in the face by a police officer while intervening as her friend was being stopped for jaywalking. Seventeen year old Angel L. Rosenthal was charged with assault of an officer but the video of the footage seems to show a massive overreaction by the Seattle police officer. Thanks to modern technology and a concerned bystander the officer is now facing a Seattle Police Department investigation.
Unfortunately this attack is another item on a long list of policemen around the country using excessive force when it is not warranted. As camera phones and pocket-sized cameras grow in number, so do examples of unethical behavior by police officers. While it is sad to see those who are meant to protect and serve overstep their bounds it is a bit comforting to know these violators are getting caught. It’s important to mention that only bad cops seem to be getting attention in the news. In the bigger picture, most cops are not going to punch you in the face or tase you for not wearing a seat belt.
Examples of this do pop up more often than anyone would like to see but young people are reacting the way they have many times before: on the Internet, with viral videos. Websites like copblock.org encourage people on the street to document police corruption whenever possible and post it on YouTube. Young libertarians have begun to organize and provide directions for dealing with cops and using laws as tools for protection. And, a wide variety of educated citizens including former cops and current attorneys have also begun posting videos outlining the legal guidelines police must follow so the uninformed are not taken advantage of. After all, the best defense against tyranny is a “well-educated populace.” These videos can help the civilian population as well as help police remember their boundaries.
One step back in the fight against overzealous police has come in the form of video taping consent laws, which require consent to be given before footage can be taken, excluding situations where it is obvious that recording is taking place, i.e. news crews. Such laws exist in 12 states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
Hopefully as Americans realize the power a camera phone has to curb injustice, police officers will realize they are never far away from a concerned citizen’s lens.