Editorial: We Are 40

Editorial: We Are 40
September 12
00:00 2014

We Are 40

It was 40 years ago this month that The Chronicle made its debut.

The year 1974 was a banner time for headline-grabbing stories. Hank Aaron broke and then surpassed Babe Ruth’s home-run record; heiress Patty Hearst was as thick as thieves with the Symbionese Liberation Army; President Richard Nixon resigned from office in the wake of the Watergate scandal; and Muhammad

Ali KO’ed George Foreman during a match in Zaire dubbed “The Rumble in the Jungle.”
Some of those stories made their way into The Chronicle, but from the beginning, much of the paper’s attention has centered on local, community interests.

The focus on high-quality, community-centered journalism has been our hallmark and one that has served us well. Our longtime readers have been extremely loyal and new readers are regularly being won over.

The struggle is quite real, though, for newspapers. When big dailies catch a cold, smaller ones catch the flu. And black-owned papers? We get the bubonic plague.

We will be marking our 40th anniversary in the months to come with special events and promotions and recommitting ourselves to the mission that has brought us this far. We thank you for your support and ask for your prayers as we plan and prepare for our next 40 years.

Cops and Cameras Still Problematic

DSC_0279If a picture is worth a thousand words, then certainly moving pictures should have the ability to tell a whole, unadulterated story. Right?

The Winston-Salem Police Department is joining law enforcement agencies around the country in testing the use of video technology to record the arrests and interactions of its officers.

There has always been “We said, They said” in matters concerning cops. Black men, especially, have long charged that officers flout protocol and the letter of the law in their encounters with them. Such claims are routinely ignored by Internal Affairs and prosecutors and slammed by law enforcement unions and associations.

Even police review panels overseen by citizens have been ineffective in addressing complaints. That’s not surprising. These boards are given a lofty charge but zero authority to take real action.

Thanks in no small measure to the tacit nod of approval given to bad officers by their law enforcement brethren, misdeeds have escalated. While beat-downs by cops have been common, killings are becoming the new normal. We all know that unarmed Michael Brown was buffeted with bullets by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo. The death of the recent high school grad last month sparked more than a week’s worth of protests. But there are other Michael Browns, nameless unarmed black men who have died at the hands of cops. Their deaths didn’t necessarily trigger uprisings, but are no less troubling and egregious. Ohio cops killed John Crawford Jr. while he was leaning against a toy gun in a Walmart; Eric Garner was choked to death on a Brooklyn street; the examples are numerous and sickening.

Now, law enforcement and lawmakers think cameras are the answer – a way to document what occurs during every stop and confrontation. Footage could exonerate suspects or a cop accused of being heavy-handed or trigger-happy. It would also aid prosecutors, for who could argue with a video?

The truth is history has shown that video evidence is not definitive. In police brutality cases, a video is like the Constitution, the Bible, a 19th century English sonnet: its meaning depends on one’s interpretation.

Remember the cunning defense team in the Rodney King case arguing that King’s writhing as a result of being beaten to near an inch of life was actually a sign of him resisting arrest?

There is video footage of Garner’s death at the hands of the NYPD, but the law enforcement community has wholeheartedly backed the cops involved, citing subtle actions in the video they say justified a chokehold.

Hats off to the WSPD and city leaders for being proactive, but accoutering cops with cameras is no cure-all. In a society where the actions of black men are automatically viewed as sinister and threatening, even a video will have few powers of persuasion.

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