Thermal runaway refers to a situation where an increase in temperature changes the conditions in a way that causes a further increase in temperature, often leading to a destructive result.
It also perfectly describes the situation that exists between unarmed and cooperative people of color who are being killed under color of authority and the subsequent backlash against that authority. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the subsequent backlash of a handful of individuals seems to escalate with each color of authority killing. Worse, even if officers are charged they often strip the public and a jury of their ability to weigh the facts. Whenever possible, they choose to have their case heard by a judge with an enduring perception that police officers walk away from their bad behavior by either justifying it or declaring that there was nothing criminal about fearing for your life and pumping 16 rounds into someone who most reasonable persons would declare was not a threat.
Worse, law enforcement is accused across the country of confiscating sources of damning video like cell phones and video cameras and destroying that evidence so last week a new tactic was used in this battle for truth and justice: Streaming live facebook video. Periscope. New apps that bypass storage on the phone by immediately streaming it to the web. And yet today, we have officers and departments grappling with body cams and all of the policy and procedure that should go with their use. Last week we witnessed two officers whose body cams fell off in a scuffle that was videotaped by two citizens cellphones.
In our opinion, every officer should be equipped with a body camera that automatically goes on when the lightbar goes on or the officer leaves the cruiser for any reason but lunch. The most effective body cameras could be mounted in safety glasses and on gun rails so that anyone reviewing the video sees what the officer sees. And finally, every person recorded should have the option of reviewing their video interaction with law enforcement within 30 days and the judicial council forms should collect an email addresses to send a video link to.
Police officers are known to extend professional courtesies to others in law enforcement and it’s arguable that a jury of one who upholds the law is easily intimidated into a no crime verdict against those responsible for enforcing the law. If law enforcement truly represents a community, then a community should have an inalienable right to adjudicate law enforcement as a jury of peers.
Finally, law enforcement should be restricted to the same weapons civilians are restricted to purchasing as we see many cases where a 15 round handgun with two extra mags was stolen out of a cops vehicle and used in a crime – or a former or current officer goes off the deep end taking his weapon with him.
Some might view this post as anti-police. We view it as a series of prudent measures to stop thermal runaway by increasing both transparency and accountability. Last week police were ambushed in Dallas Texas, Bristol Tennessee, Valdosta Georgia and Ballwin, Missouri. Since last weeks videotaped and streamed killings of two african americans, the new york police department has fielded 17 specific threats against law enforcement and police departments across California are doubling up, having cops patrol together in an effort to reduce the likelihood of a lethal encounter.
If there is not meaningful changes made at all layers of the justice system then the likelihood of thermal runaway will continue to grow because it really does not matter if it is a cop shooting an unarmed suspect or a traffic commissioner handing down a $6,600.00 fine to an uninsured, unlicensed, unregistered mother of three. To the general public we are all a part of the system that fails many while enabling the well connected to walk away from accountability.
Related video commentary from a Dallas Broadcaster: