Kianga Mweba’s cellphone camera blurs into darkness broken by flashes of lights surrounding her car. From the audio of her cellphone recording, one can hear Kianga Mweba scream as she is pulled out of the car and tased. Mweba, arrested as she filmed the police detaining a man on the street, was charged with attempted assault on an officer. After recovering footage from her phone, her defense attorney produced the video as evidence against the criminal charges. Now the recording is a key piece of evidence in a lawsuit against the department. Mweba’s experience, captured by her cellphone camera, rallied activists in Baltimore and across the country in demanding change to policing practices. This recording of police officers violently taking down Mweba was one of many videos released this year showing people of color violently seized by police in cities across the U.S. The footage unveils the hidden story of the violence many women have faced in abusive police encounters.
Recorded encounters between women of color and police officers have been invaluable in bringing the reality of these interactions into the living rooms of otherwise unknowing Americans. The recordings are instrumental pieces of documentation and evidence, with the power to impact verdicts and galvanize the domestic struggle for human rights outside of the courtroom. They also are fraught with ethical issues that must be addressed by attorneys and activists hoping they effect change. Complexities such as implicit biases, editing and sourcing of videos, anonymity for those attacked and bystanders, and vicarious trauma on affected communities complicate use of violent police encounter videos.
American Bar Association
Mark Wojcik, Kyo Suh
The State of Criminal Justice 2016
Amber A. Baylor, #SayHerName Captured: Using Video to Challenge Law Enforcement Violence Against Women, in American Bar Association, The State of Criminal Justice 2016, 141-46 (Mark Wojcik, ed. 2016)