Should People Be Paid for Filming Police Brutality?

From Rodney King to Walter Scott, witnesses and bystanders who film police brutality have been the ultimate “great samaritan”, offering the public a first-hand account of what really went down. If it weren’t for cellphone crusaders, families of slain victims wouldn’t have a chance at justice—even though we know as the story often goes, cops get off anyway.

Since the murder of Michael Brown, there’s been sweeping support by the public and politicians alike for police body cameras, but when it comes to moving legislation and making it a mandate for every single police officer in America, it’s been a glacial process.

The New Republic, gives a question to consider when it comes to witnesses of police misconduct and blatant brutality. Should they be paid?

Feidin Santana, the man who filmed Officer Michael Slager fatally shoot Walter L. Scott in the back eight times in April, believe the answer to that question is ‘yes!’ Citing copyright law, Santana’s lawyers are requiring coin from the media every time they use Santana’s video.

This outcome will certainly garner mixed reviews among the public. Some may feel it’s greedy, while others may feel it’s only right—especially considering the risk Santana took to be brave enough to openly record law enforcement. If it weren’t for Santana and others who had the balls to catch shady cops in the thick of their shadiness, many of these cases would likely not even be cases at all. Thankfully, we have people catching it on tape time and time again in order to prove undoubted pattern of police aggression toward Black people in America. Why shouldn’t they be compensated?

Here’s some point New Republic encourages us to consider:

Bystanders with cameras may not have control

Their cell phones may be the only way to ensure justice and law enforcement accountability, when for so long, there has been little. These bystanders feel it their duty to capture, then share the truth that is police brutality against victims who many are not ‘high profile’ citizens.

Filming police officers is dangerous.

The police can respond in many different volatile ways and money for any legal help or resources may not be something witnesses have access to.

Police brutality witnesses open themselves up to public scrutiny. 

From threats to possibly having to leave their place of residence altogether and everything in between, fear and intimidation tactics come with the territory of being a ‘whistleblower’ with no real guarantee of success or incentive for doing the right thing.

Legal advocacy and protection is needed.

However, legal protection costs. At the very least, those who place their lives in jeopardy for justice should be entitled to compensation for legal fees, until state-funded legal safeguards are mandated, then established. Doubtfully, these individuals are seeking to ‘cash in.’

At the end of the day, cell phone crusaders act in the name of justice, but having some coin to compensate their intellectual property and support to get them through the drama is certainly worth considering.

Brittney Chase

Brittney Chase

Brittney L. A. Chase is a Daily Editor of Jawbreaker. She's also a fierce homemaker, fab wife of four years to Brandon and the rock-mommy of one-year-old B.J.

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