The recent shooting of a videographer by an Oakland Police Officer has sparked controversy. Scott Campbell was shot in the upper right thigh with a nonlethal projectile while recording an Occupy Oakland general strike. Campbell has stated that he adhered to a police officer’s request to step back from the chaotic situation, and while doing so the officer proceeded to fire at Campbell. Campbell states,
"At first I was just stunned, and in an immense amount of pain," he said. "It was just shock. I was extremely shaken. And since then what I'm really wondering is what was going through that person's head that made him think it was OK to shoot another person with a less-than-lethal weapon for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
Although it remains unclear why the Oakland officer chose to shoot Campbell with the projectile, from Campbell's video (above) it appears that the force used was extreme and unnecessary. Further, Kayvan Sabeghi, another Oakland resident and a veteran of the war in Iraq, reports that officers beat him with batons and tackled him and then denied him medical care for hours. He later underwent surgery to repair a lacerated spleen.
Is the Oakland Police Department engaging in a pattern of unjustified brutality? It is safe to say that Campbell’s First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Freedom of the press protects the right to film police actions, as long as doing so does not intervene with law enforcement's ability to protect public safety.
Police brutality in America is on the rise. According to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) from April 2009 to June 2010 5,986 cases of misconduct have been recorded, 382 fatalities were linked to misconduct, and $347,455,000 have been spent in related settlements and judgments. Until accountability is sought and security measures are taken to protect citizens, these numbers will continue to rise.