Editor’s note: This is the second part of a four-part series. Read the first part here.
The emergence of video, whether it’s dash-cam video, security camera video or footage shot with a cellphone, has dramatically altered the power dynamic in police-citizen interactions. In South Carolina, the shootings of Walter Scott and Levar Jones resonated across the state because of powerful video that contradicted police accounts of the incidents and demonstrated to most viewers that the shootings of both men were clearly unjustified.
The sudden widespread availability of video of these and other disputed incidents has also raised questions about the checks that are supposed to hold abusive police officers accountable. In South Carolina, video has shown that local prosecutors can be too quick to believe the police narrative about an incident. In some cases, even video that directly contradicted the officer’s account hasn’t been enough to merit charges or discipline — accountability came only after the video was released to the public, bringing national headlines and public criticism.