There’s a debate brewing in Erie County, New York over where local law enforcement should be spending its money. A couple of county officials say that purchasing body cameras for officers is paramount. Sheriff Timothy Howard says there’s no issue with officers using force, based on the lack of formal complaints about it, and says the main priorities ought to be getting a full-time (not part-time) SWAT team and purchasing a helicopter.
Naturally, things got contentious during a recent meeting of the County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee because the county officials didn’t buy Howard’s excuse for why body cams weren’t a priority. Chairwoman April Baskin said transparency was essential, implying that we couldn’t just take the officers’ at their word that everything was okay.
Howard didn’t appreciate that insinuation. And he responded with a completely inappropriate religious metaphor:
How’s that for a rebuttal? You’re like Doubting Thomas! HOW DARE YOU NOT BELIEVE US?!
“I often wonder, how did Jesus feel when Thomas didn’t believe that he came back from the dead,” he said. “And how did all those other apostles feel when Thomas said that you’re lying, that Jesus didn’t come back … I wonder if Jesus was mad or if the apostles were mad. But I do have to say that I am offended, and our deputies on the road that put themselves at risk must be more greatly offended. These are honorable people. We go to great efforts to find honorable people, to teach them and to provide them for what they need.”
Of course, many people would argue Thomas had a point. He didn’t take Jesus at His word. He wanted evidence. When he finally saw that evidence, as the Bible story goes, he accepted it. So, in fact, Baskin is right with her request. If the officers are truly doing their jobs and not using aggression in any inappropriate way, then confirmation of that via body cams should put everyone at ease, which will make for a stronger relationship between the officers and the community. A win-win! As the old saying goes, “Trust, but verify.”
“I don’t know why the question of transparency would offend you,” Baskin responded, saying that transparency could also protect deputies during incidents in which the facts are in dispute.
Again, fair argument.
There may be a legitimate argument to prioritize the SWAT team and helicopter over body cams, but instead of offering logic and reason, Howard resorted to religion and guilt. That alone should give local officials more reason to probe into whether his priorities are well-founded or whether he’s just trying to avoid accountability.
(Thanks to @bettybarc0de for the link)