On March 3, 1991, a Lake View Terrace, Calif. resident named George Holliday filmed the beating of an unarmed black man at the hands of several Los Angeles Police Department officers. The 12-minute long video tape preserved what could have otherwise become a forgotten episode of police brutality, and almost anyone who watches the film today can recognize it as the Rodney King beating.
The Rodney King video, next to the Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, is one of the most important examples of "sousveillance" footage to date. Sousveillance is the act of bringing eye-in-sky surveillance, usually by the authorities, down to the street level, where private citizens can capture events with small and portable recording devices.
With the mass accessibility of cellphone cameras, lightweight handheld cameras, and websites like YouTube, sousveillance has proliferated -- much to the consternation of certain police officers who have since been disciplined or convicted thanks to the videos in evidence.
"Video is making victims more credible," says Diop Kamau, CEO of PoliceAbuse.com and a former Hawthorne Police Sergeant Detective, on his site. "If Rodney King would have tried to tell his story without video, nobody would have believed it," he continued.
Twenty years after the Los Angeles Riots, sousveillance is more relevant than ever in this city. Browse Los Angeles sousveillance videos from 1992 to the present to see the big role individuals have played in reforming powerful institutions.
In this 1991 video, <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/28/us/rodney-king-profile/" target="_hplink">Rodney King is beaten</a> by a group of police officers. It is known as one of the most infamous police brutality cases, and the acquittal of the officers involved, one year later, sparked the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/la-riots/" target="_hplink">Los Angeles riots</a>.
In this 2006 video,<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/10/AR2006111001666.html" target="_hplink"> William Cardenas is seen being beaten by two LAPD officers</a>. Cardenas was reportedly resisting arrest after being seen drinking a beer on the sidewalk. The use of excessive force was deemed appropriate, but led to national news coverage of Copwatch initiatives.
May Day Melee
This 2007 video was filmed at a May Day rally in MacArthur Park where undocumented immigrants were rallying for amnesty. Approximately 600 LAPD, both in helicopters and on the ground, began to descend on the area after declaring the event an unlawful assembly.
May Day Melee
In response to the excessive force used by the LAPD at the May Day Melee, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa personally oversaw the investigation and Police Chief William Bratton announced an attempt at reorganizing the LAPD. The city was ordered to pay <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2009/feb/05/local/me-lapd-settlement5" target="_hplink">$12.85 million in a class action lawsuit</a> to the people who were hurt.
City Bus Abuse
From the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsW23kbVLs0" target="_hplink">UnivisionNews1</a> channel on YouTube: <blockquote>A cell phone camera caught the moment when an LAPD officer struck a mentally ill woman aboard a city bus. They were called in after she displayed erratic behavior. Civil rights activists argue he used excessive force and demand an investigation.</blockquote>
Hollywood Blvd Counter-Protest
In this 2008 video, counter-protesters along the sidewalks gathered on Hollywood Boulevard as the Minuteman civilian border patrol group marched in the streets. When counter-protesters tried to join in the march, police stopped them because they did not have a permit, while the Minutemen did. ABC Los Angeles notes that sometimes, <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local&id=4349432" target="_hplink">the police used force</a> to keep counter-protesters from the street.
In this video from <a href="http://policeabuse.com/" target="_hplink">PoliceAbuse.com</a>, we learn about Diop Kamau (also know as Don Jackson), a former Police Sergeant Detective with the Hawthorne Police Department who went undercover to expose racism and violence in his own police department. Kamau went on to become the founder and executive director of the Police Complaint Center and the CEO of PoliceAbuse.com. Kamau has made it his mission to identify, investigate and reform police misconduct.
In this 2002 video by Mitchell Crooks, officers from both the LA County Sheriff's Department and the Inglewood Police Department are seen using excessive force against Donovan Jackson, a 16-year-old who suffers from a developmental disability. Jackson's father's car was unregistered, which is why the police stopped them. The video begins with Donovan face down, handcuffed on the asphalt. Moments later he is unconscious due to the way the officers were pulling on the chain he was wearing. This case had major reverberations throughout Inglewood. Following the trial of the police officers, two white police officers filed a discrimination suit against the city for being treated more harshly than their black counterparts. <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2005/mar/08/local/me-donovan8" target="_hplink">They won $2.4 million</a>. <a href="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04E3DC163CF93AA35750C0A9639C8B63&ref=donovanjackson" target="_hplink">Donovan's family eventually settled</a> with the City of Inglewood for an undisclosed sum. The City of Inglewood and LA County never admitted any wrongdoing or liability.
In this 2011 video,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/21/kelly-thomas-death-police-charged_n_974237.html" target="_hplink"> Kelly Thomas is seen beaten to death</a> by members of the Fullerton Police Department who were responding to the scene after someone called in a robbery. Officer Ramos can be heard saying, <a href="http://documents.latimes.com/charges-kelly-thomas-police/" target="_hplink">"Now see my fists? They are getting ready to fuck you up,"</a> to Thomas before beating him. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/21/kelly-thomas-death-police-charged_n_974237.html" target="_hplink">Ramos was later charged with murder</a>. Cpl. Jay Cicinelli faces manslaughter charges. A trial is pending.