• Little things to do for MLK Day

    Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. If you have the day off, there are things you can do to make the most of your free time in the spirit of this day, rather than wasting it lounging around. If you’re at school or work today (Indiana’s inconsistent like that), well, it’s still possible to squeeze some things in and make this more than just another Monday.

    Here are a few little things you can do for today (also known as “the least you could do”):

    • Do a good deed: Today is a big day for volunteering in communities across the country. But if you’re unable to be directly involved in any major charity endeavors or causes, even doing little things are good. For example, help your neighbors without expecting anything in return, whether it’s something simple like helping with menial tasks or chores or something major. If someone you know is in need of personal guidance or emotional support, be there for them.
    • Look at how the other half lives: There’s a bigger world out there, one where things are more complex than your limited experience. So, instead of judging all people or events through the lens of your own individual worldview, look at the bigger picture. Read up on different perspectives on the world and its issues, and do so leaving your personal standards and biases behind (as a matter of fact, it’s not a bad idea to even intentionally seek out things toward which your first reaction is disagreement). You’ll come to understand other people and the world better, and see that things didn’t all the sudden become perfect after the Civil Rights era.
    • Talk to each other…and listen: See above. Also, you won’t see much of this in an election year (and so far, it’s looking to be a pretty nasty one), but it’s possible to talk about things like adults, with civility, substance, and facts instead of irrelevancies and cheap shots. New perspectives can only enlighten you, even if they don’t change your mind. So, start a conversation.

    After doing one or all of these things, ask yourself: would it really be so hard to behave like this every day, rather than just one day a year when you feel like you have to?


  • The downside of police body cams

    I’m not a legal expert by any means. I also know the subject I’m about to discuss is a hornet’s nest in every sense of the metaphor. Nevertheless, I think it’s too important not to talk about.

    The subject is the emerging trend and debate about police wearing body cameras to film their patrols and arrests. Hammond’s police force is now equipped with cameras, and a few other forces in the Region might follow suit.

    Body cams are ostensibly about policing the police, making sure that they respect suspects’ rights and don’t break the law themselves. You might have heard increased calls for their adoption recently in the wake of highly publicized killings of (mostly minority) suspects by police officers.

    I’m not sure it will make a difference about that. A few of those controversial deaths have been on video recorded by bystanders. And even when the video evidence was pretty clear, several officers involved didn’t faced any legal repercussions. Nor did it ever seem to affect anyone’s opinion, so thoroughly were they entrenched in their view of the cops’ actions.

    That’s troubling enough, but what’s really scary is that while the consensus is body cams will be a win for rights of the accused, it's not hard to picture it doing the opposite. We already live in the age when we're constantly recorded and nearly everything we do leaves a digital trail of some sort. Adding yet another recording apparatus, even one with the best of intentions, only lessens our privacy and grows the surveillance state even more.

    Moreover, I can imagine instances where body cams will be a detriment to the accused. Even if they're used properly and not abused, recorded videos could still bring undue incrimination upon suspects. The Miranda rights recited by every cop when a person is arrested explicitly state that what they say can be used against them in court. Well, what about video of their arrest? It's not outside the realm of possibility that video could make them look bad and skew jurors, precluding a fair trial.

    I hope I’m worrying over nothing, and that if body cams do become more widespread, they do good things for the relationship between the police and the people they serve. But just in case, I hope as they start to catch on, they’re accompanied by regulations and wide-reaching legislation or court cases making sure they do only that.