The cities of Houston, Texas and Ferguson, Missouri have nearly 1,000 miles between them. But for many Houstonians, this week’s decision to let Michael Brown’s killer free without trial had a strong and immediate resonance within the Bayou City. Citizens quickly mounted protests that not only spoke out about the Missouri decision, but renewed calls to do better in this community as well.
Thankfully, all of the protests in Houston have been peaceful, and as reported by the Houston Chronicle, those protests may yield some very real positive results…
The shooting of a black teenager in Missouri by a white police officer has prompted Houston Police Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr., to push forward with a plan to have every officer outfitted with a body camera.
“Because of the incident that happened in Ferguson, I just think that it’s a matter of time before every law enforcement agency in the United States has body cameras,” McClelland said Wednesday. “It’s not ‘if’ anymore, it’s ‘when.'”
He spoke as demonstrators, for a second straight day, gathered in Houston Wednesday to protest the decision by the grand jury not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown.
“We are dealing with a system of global white supremacy and racism,” said Kofi Taharka of the National Black United Front at the protest.
“Houston is no different from Ferguson,” said Taharka, at the rally attended by dozens of people outside the downtown high-rise that houses the Greater Houston Partnership.
Several Houston police officers were watching the demonstration but kept their distance. HPD officials at the scene said there were no arrests.
At his regular briefing, McClelland said a body camera might have provided additional evidence to confirm whether the shooting in Missouri was lawful or not.
“It would have given grand jurors additional information to base their decision on one way or the other but it would have also given the public some piece of mind,” McClelland said.
He said the photographic evidence would have been nothing less than an independent and objective piece of evidence.
“And that’s what people are not trusting in Ferguson and some other parts of the country right now. They question what information is being given from law enforcement, prosecutors and people in the criminal justice system,” McClelland said.
The Houston Police Department has a pilot program for body cameras that is already underway, but at present it only provides the technology for 100 or so officers. The city estimates costs for the cameras at over $7 million dollars, and has been reluctant thus far to make any firm commitment to find the funds. But clearly, two days of protests and ample news coverage calling for the body cameras may help to turn that wish list into a necessity. Be on the lookout for this issue in future meetings of the Houston City Council.
Requiring police forces across the country to have body cameras is the central point of the Michael Brown Jr. law, which peaceful protesters in Ferguson and other St. Louis-area communities have been calling for since the young man’s tragic death in August. No matter one’s opinion of the case itself, we should all want to move forward with positive changes solutions such as this one.
And just in case you needed a reminder, the body cameras are an objective witness. They’ll protect our police that are in the right just as much as they will convict those doing wrong.
Here are some photos from the protest in Downtown Houston, held on November 26th.