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Larry Blustein


A Very Strong Statement!

SFSuntimes@aol.com


By Larry Blustein
sfsuntimes@aol.com
   Last summer when he went back to his hometown, which is just outside of St. Louis, Mark Averil returned to a place he certainly didn't recognize.
   Averil grew up in Hazelwood, moved to Berkeley and then to Ferguson. The Ferguson that he had known for all those years in this suburb northwest of some of the real mean streets of the big city, was not the same.
   "It took some poor judgments on both sides of the fence to make that community erupt," said Averil, who now makes his home in Hallandale Beach. "This 'epidemic' of police shootings has really been magnified for so many reasons. First of all, the ones that are captured on video paint a story that is not good for the men in blue, and that photo is engraved in the minds of everyone."
   Averil believes that for everyone that is caught on camera - it leaves so much doubt for those that are not.
   "It's a valid way of thinking," Averil said. "But the way to eliminate that - much the way they had for those not-so-routine traffic stops, placing a dashboard camera - the talk for all departments, nationwide, is to invest in potentially life-saving body cameras."
   Body cameras have been talked about for years, and while some have started to move closer to make them a reality, things have been stalled.
   In Hallandale Beach, Mayor Joy Cooper had been against them, but even she admits that in light of everything that has gone on - not only locally, but nationwide, it was time to make that move, which is one that could truly change a lot of things.
   For former New Jersey policeman Jerry Krantz, who gave 27 years to the profession, it sickens him to see some of the video taken of officers - whether shooting or brutally beating suspects. While he understands that wearing body cameras will be an effective way to monitor every situation, it still will not change the way some of his fellow officers think.
   "We have always lived by the fact that you must exist with the good and the bad in any walk of life," said the current Hollywood resident Sam Bruno. "I know how tough this job is - but I also understand that no two people are the same."
    The need for body cameras have come into focus in the last year with a growing national outcry over fatal shootings of unarmed suspects, particularly black men. Angry protesters took to the streets last year  in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown, and in New York with the choking death of Eric Garner.
    The City of Hallandale Beach will be one of the first to invest in body cameras. A pilot program could begin this summer. The current plans call for 20 street cops and eight sergeants to be equipped  and extensively trained.
    While the issue has been a hot topic across the country, Hallandale Beach City Commissioner Michele Lazarow was the first to bring up this advanced technology nearly two years ago. It took all those killings and the videos to start changing minds across the board.
    At a town hall meeting a few months back, Police Chief Dwayne Flournoy told those on hand that he felt that having the cameras will lead to fewer citizen complaints and better behavior on the part of both officers and the public.
    Flournoy, like his counterparts at several other agencies, who are looking into implementing the program, have been watching other cities who already have the body cameras in place.
    As many unions across the country continue to fight having body cameras worn, more reasons - like the police officer shooting eight bullets at the back of an unarmed, fleeing suspect in South Carolina.
   The mayor of that South Carolina town where a white officer was filmed fatally shooting an unarmed black man called the incident a “horrible tragedy” as he announced that all patrol officers would be outfitted with body cameras.
   Lawmakers in several states have offered different approaches to find the right balance between transparency and privacy — an issue that became an afterthought amid the rush to pin cameras on officers’ shirts.