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The Eric Garner Case Weakens the Argument for Police Body Cameras

Video didn’t save the life of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man who died in July from a chokehold applied by a New York City police officer. And now it appears that video also wasn’t enough to persuade a New York grand jury to indict the officer who helped arrest the 43-year-old Garner on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes on Staten Island.

That’s important because prominent public figures, including President Obama, have prescribed cameras as a way to reduce police killings of civilians, reasoning that police will be more careful if they know their actions are being recorded. There was no video evidence—and no indictment—in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot to death in August by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in a case that led to violent protests. The Obama administration said Dec. 1 it will seek $263 million from Congress for community policing, including $75 million to help purchase 50,000 body cameras for law enforcement agencies.