Add news
Нами Накагава — Kimi Wa Kirameki/Ты - Сияние! (feat. Ichigo Tanuki)
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020September 2020October 2020November 2020December 2020January 2021February 2021March 2021April 2021May 2021
News Every Day |

It’s time for a moratorium on police shooting videos

Lightning strikes near the intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street, also known as George Floyd Square, on April 6 in Minneapolis. | Joshua Lott/The Washington Post/Getty Images

We have enough proof. What’s the purpose of sharing these violent images anymore, other than to traumatize Black communities?

George Floyd cried out for his mother in his final moments. Adam Toledo did not have time to.

Two deaths at the hands of police. One prolonged. The other sudden. Both tragic. These are the haunting bookends that modern footage of police brutality gave us in just the last week.

The final week of testimony in the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin began last Monday. To make their respective cases, both the defense and the prosecution looped traumatic videos of Floyd’s 2020 death in Minneapolis.

That same day, national news outlets began to report on Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black motorist whom Brooklyn Center police shot fatally on April 11 — just 10 miles from where Floyd took his last breaths. By Wednesday, I watched in horror as police pepper-sprayed 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, in his military uniform during a Virginia traffic stop. His video played repeatedly on all of the major cable networks.

And by Thursday, 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who is Latino, appeared on my TV and smartphone screen, holding his hands up to surrender to a Chicago police officer who shot him fatally in less than two seconds on March 29, tuning the scales of trauma to an unbearable pitch for so many.

What are we to gain, I asked myself, from the continued viewing of these videos? I’m a social scientist, so I think about this perhaps more often than most people. For the last 10 years, I have studied how African Americans use mobile and social media to document police brutality. Like many, I hoped initially that the rise in this documentation would lead to widespread policy changes across the country.

I thought that if people finally could see the true horror that many Black and brown people faced daily in their own communities, then change would come swiftly. In the same way that the civil rights movement gained steam because of the horrific Emmett Till photographs, I knew that there was power in having visual proof — or even a visual counternarrative when police lie, as they did with Toledo’s death and Laquan McDonald’s.

Last year was a breaking point for me, though. Seeing George Floyd dying on primetime television, over and over again, was too much. It felt voyeuristic — not valiant — because I realized that Black deaths were the only ones that the news media aired on TV.

Amid the global Black Lives Matter uprisings last year, I voiced concern for how news organizations were handling Floyd’s video. In magazines, on TV, and on the radio, I pleaded with journalists to consider the trauma that African Americans face when they see their loved one’s demise instant-replayed on TV, like sports highlights. I urged the public to think before posting Black death to their social media timelines. I suggested that people equate these fatal police encounter videos to modern-day lynching photographs, which deserve somber respect instead of casual viewing.

This message went viral. Journalists from around the world called and emailed me for advice about how to report on police brutality without showing these images. Many reporters asked me if a freeze-frame before the moment of death would be more respectful than showing the whole video. I remember offering a reluctant “yes.” But seeing the still frame of Daunte Wright terrified in his car, or witnessing Adam Toledo’s hands up in surrender, has changed my mind. Even the abridged videos have been traumatizing.

Last week, I realized that we have been asking the wrong questions all along. The questions never should have been, “Do we have a video of this police killing?” or, “Was the officer’s body cam on?” Instead, we should have been asking ourselves why we ever demanded that marginalized communities produce this kind of visual “proof” in the first place. Why were Black and brown people forced to pre-litigate their own murder trials in this way? Why was it necessary to form a counternarrative to the old stereotype of Black and brown folks’ criminality? Why did we ever need to produce a parallel storyline to an official police report?

This system of American policing has created a diabolical cycle of citizen witnessing. First, the cycle demands that a victim’s family share their loved one’s tragic last moments with the public. Then, it invites those moments to be picked apart, first by the news media and eventually a jury — and that’s if the case ever goes to trial. Finally, it leaves the slain to be entombed online, often without the family’s consent. Then, the cycle repeats with a new person, a new family, a new headline, and a new hashtag.

The center cannot hold. The same Black and brown communities that are being asked to remain calm, stay compliant, and endure stoically are the same groups who watched the January 6 siege on the Capitol unfold. They watched as white insurrectionists broke into a federal building — with the aid of many police who opened doors for them — and lived to tell about it. They watched, also, as another child — 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who is white — crossed state lines from Illinois to Wisconsin with the intent to shoot anti-police brutality protesters in August 2020. When Rittenhouse approached police, wearing an assault rifle and having killed two people, police gave him bottled water and later sent him financial donations for his legal fees.

For all of these reasons, I now believe that circulating videos of Black and brown death at the hands of police reinforces white supremacy. It does not deter it. These videos are no longer exposing a corrupt police system. They are a reminder of a social hierarchy that privileges police with qualified immunity, rewards racist vigilantes with internet fame and money, and punishes communities of color with death if they question that order.

I am calling for a moratorium on broadcasting these videos on television and online unless the victim’s family consents to such publicity. In the same way that an amendment to the Comstock Act of 1873 banned the circulation of lynching postcards in the US postal system, legislators can use the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 (BDEA) to fine TV news outlets and social media platforms that continue to profit from these traumatic images.

President George Bush passed BDEA to increase the indecency fines tenfold after the infamous Nipplegate incident at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. It is bewildering to think that Justin Timberlake popping a piece off Janet Jackson’s corset — to reveal her bare breast on TV — was considered obscene enough to inspire new legislation, while airing fatal police footage continues to be allowed.

 Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
“Seeing George Floyd dying on primetime television, over and over again, was too much. It felt voyeuristic — not valiant — because I realized that Black deaths were the only ones that the news media aired on TV,” writes Allissa V. Richardson.

Removing the financial incentive for news media to air these ghastly videos may force journalists to engage in more reparative storytelling. This kind of journalism would not play the Toledo video in slow motion in search of a gun. It would ask, instead, what kind of systemic failures led to a 13-year-old being outside at 2 in the morning in the first place? What kind of endemic biases led Virginia police to disregard Lt. Nazario’s military uniform, to regard instead his other uniform, his Blackness? What kind of systemic cruelty led Chauvin to believe that George Floyd’s pleas for his life did not matter? These are the hard questions that policy, not more police footage, can answer. This is where journalism must go next.

The road to dismantling deadly policing will be long. I believe news media can help jumpstart the process though, by doing away with the false idea that African American and Latinx communities need to play this game of video empathy before justice. It is time to simply start believing communities of color. We have enough proof. We have enough pain. What we don’t have is reform. And we owe that to so many people, especially to those who have called out for their mothers from the pavement, and to those who expired even before they had that chance.

Allissa V. Richardson, PhD, is the author of Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones, and the New Protest #Journalism. She is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School.

Read also

'Never again': Liz Cheney spits fire at Trump's 2024 re-election after she's ousted from GOP leadership

UAE reports 1,508 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths in 24 hours

Londoners think they can do better as they mock new Piccadilly Circus design

News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here
News Every Day

Lopez-Kambosos moves to June 19, adds undercard