Diop Kamau was a cop in California when his father was roughed up during a traffic stop by officers from another police department.
That incident prompted Kamau to quit his job as an officer and begin a new career documenting police abuses on videotape, especially those involving racial profiling, since he and his father are black.
This happened in the late 1980s, well before the internet began regularly broadcasting police abuse videos and even before the infamous Rodney King video.
Today, he runs a website titled Police Abuse where he frequently posts videos of these encounters.
Kamau, who now lives in Tallahassee, was featured today in a front-page article in USA Today.
One of the videos on his website shows him and a group of black friends in his 1968 Chevy Impala, which is specially wired with cameras and microphones, getting hassled by cops in Los Angeles.
The cops are accusing him of being parked illegally, but they also are demanding the identifications of everybody in the car.
Kamau, who has handed his own driver license over, tells the officer to just write him a ticket for the parking violation because he has no right to demand the identifications of his passengers.
More cops surround the car, including one who accuses him of “intimidating” officers with his knowledge of the law.
The USA Today article mentions some of the most popular recent police abuse videos we’ve discussed here and questions whether if these types of videos are doing more harm than good.
The videos are so ubiquitous that analysts and police debate whether they are serving the public interest — or undermining public trust in law enforcement and even putting officers’ lives in jeopardy. The videos are subjecting officers’ actions in public places to new scrutiny and changing the way accusations against cops play out in court. In some communities, police are fighting back by enforcing laws that limit such recordings. Other departments are seeking new training for officers to prepare for the ever-present surveillance on the street.
Let’s get one thing straight. It is not the videos undermining public trust. It is the officers in these videos. Where before we may have seen the isolated video on our local news channel, we now are able to see them on a regular basis, proving that police abuse is a much more widespread problem than some would like to admit.
Although some cops have tried to curtail citizen videotaping by arresting people on wiretapping charges, those cases have fortunately been thrown out of court.
The solution to the problem must start from within the police departments with proper training, as some departments are starting to do, including the Broward Sheriff’s Office, which did so after Kamau began investigating them.