Twenty years ago George Holliday changed the world when his recording of the Rodney King police beating quickly traveled around the globe. Today almost everyone has a cell phone camera, and countless other incidents of police brutality have been posted to You Tube.
While the police department in Oakland, California and other around the country have embraced the new technology and are now outfitting officers with small cameras on their uniforms, in some states citizens are being charged with eavesdropping for recording the police in public.
But is it simply enough for the police to record themselves or is public oversight of these videos essential to police accountability?
In Detroit, an officer shot and killed a 7-year-old girl during a police raid that was captured on camera by a reality television crew. But the footage remains hidden from the public, and the officer involved continues to collect a pay check from the city.
Police Tape is a half-hour film that examines the impact of police recordings over the past two decades. The film features a ride-along with one of the first Oakland police officers to test out the new cameras, the story of an artist facing up to fifteen years in prison for recording his own civil disobedience, and the Aiyana Jones tragedy, in which the hunt for a murder suspect led the death of a 7-year-old girl.
The film's complete; I produced it as my thesis project for the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism where it was awarded the Reva and David Logan Prize for Excellence in Investigative Reporting. Although I was able to use the school's equipment and the free labor of my friends to make this project happen, the cost of archive material alone was more than $2,500.
It would be nice to recoup some of that expense, but more importantly, it's going to take money to help get this film out into the world by entering it in film festivals and to print DVDs. I'd love your support, and I hope this issue is as important to you as it is for me.
- (30 days)