Camera Phones: The Ultimate Tool for Giving Voices to the Voiceless

The trial of George Floyd has just begun in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For centuries Black people in America have been subjected to violence provoked by their skin color. In recent years, these acts of violence are known as police brutality being seen through amateur video footage. The advancement of technology has allowed for these narratives to reach people that normally would not be accustomed to seeing.

Phones have been a stable of society since their creation in 1876, but now instead of using them for direct communication, they are being transformed into a device that help protect people.

Before the prevalence of camera phones, many Black victims of police brutality believed that they were just isolated events that happen rarely. Due to the introduction of phone cameras and the accessibility of them, many have realized that what were once thought singular events, were not at all.

In 2007 the iPhone was created, in 2008 the Facebook app was launched – both changing the world. Phones are a technological game-changer. You can talk face-to-face to someone across the world in seconds and they have led to dictatorships being toppled, but when it comes to taboo sociological problems like police brutality, they have helped push a narrative that otherwise would not be seen by the public. Nicol Lee of the Brookings Institution explains that phones have “become a communication staple for vulnerable populations… with the long history in America of violence against Black people, the ambiguity of video recordings has recast the narrative surrounding police violence… heightening public concerns about law enforcement.”

Now, from the help of phones, many underprivileged people are given a form of public empowerment. The heightened public concern regarding law enforcement helps minorities become self-empowered whereas before, there was nothing but just their word to help them through these violent altercations.

In recent years, many leading criminal justice programs have undergone studies that examine what seems like an increasing trend of police brutality. Minorites, especially men of color have inequitably unproportionate interactions with law enforcement officers in America. Frank Edwards of the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice found that the average lifetime odds of men being killed by policemen are about 1 in 2000. For men of color, police use-of-force is among the leading cause of death at 1 in 1000. In other words, Black men in America are around 2 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement.

The Bureau of Justice Statics reported that in recent years (since 2002) acts of police force have not increased drastically. In all, what many have perceived as a growth of violent acts by law enforcement is not the case; instead, both camera phones and social media are exposing this social problem much more frequently than seen before.

This new exposure has led to judicial and policy changes that could very well help lower these damming statistics. The aftermath of the George Floyd altercation resulted in many changes in numerous cities, states, national, and global law enforcement legislations. For example; California passed several bills that banned the use of chokeholds; Minnesota banned neck restrains; Connecticut passed an executive order to require officers to wear body cameras at all times.

Altogether, twenty-five states and several other countries changed their policing policies. None of this would have been possible and so hastily without the use of a video recording device.

Police brutality is one of the persistent assaults on Blacks in America. Camera phones and their recordings have brought visibility to both the historical terror and fear many feel in the presence of the police. Many of these situations like George Floyd’s resulted in death, but unlike so many Black people before, there was no video footage to show the version of police brutality that they and their communities see daily. With phones and the power of their technology the voiceless now have a voice to help change society for the better.

Written by Quincy Williamson

Quincy Williamson is a columnist at DecipherGrey