Charlene Carruthers: “Body cameras don’t help us sleep at night.”
There have been varying levels of concern about the criminalization of Black women and children since 23-year-old Korryn Gaines was killed by Baltimore Police in her own apartment while holding her 5-year-old son. Similarly, conversation about excessive police violence has erupted following the video release of Paul O’Neal’s murder at the hands of Chicago Police.
One social organizer and brilliant queer Black woman who has been consistent about why the extralegal murders of Gaines and O’Neal reach beyond just the issue of police brutality and deeper into our existing problems with for-profit policing, incentive structures for state violence and harassment of poor, Black people, and overall disinvestment from communities of color is Charlene Carruthers, National Director of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100). In this clip from Democracy Now!, Carruthers makes clear why we have to look beyond surface level understandings of police violence and examine the ways that the entire system functions to persecute and delimit Black life.
On Tuesday, Carruthers appeared on air with host Amy Goodman and Michael Oppenheimer, lawyer for the family of Paul O’Neal. O’Neal was killed by Chicago Police on July 28th after allegedly stealing a vehicle and running from officers.
The panel discussed police violence and the many Black people who have been unfairly targeted and/or subsequently murdered in cold blood by police officers while those officers wore body cameras. In the case of O’Neal, officers’ cameras were conveniently turned off or “malfunctioned” at particular moments during the pursuit and murder of the 18-year-old.
In the clip, Goodman asks Carruthers what exactly her organization and many others are calling for following these brutal murders.
“Well, what we’ve witnessed here, once again, is not simply a failure or a technical failure of a piece of equipment, but a failure of the Chicago Police Department to keep black people safe. Here in the city of Chicago, we invest about 40 percent of our public service budget to policing, and the amount of money that’s been invested in body cameras has been astronomical,” Carruthers explains.
“And for me and for the folks that I work with every single day, body cameras don’t help us sleep at night. What it tells us, that while police officers can have a camera on their body, they can still take it upon themselves to take our lives. And so, we’re calling for what we’ve been calling for: divestment from policing and investment in our communities, so that we can create actual safe communities and not communities that rely on police or prisons to keep us safe,” Carruthers continues.
Watch the conversation below: