Los Angeles — Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the Rodney King beating, which was coincidentally caught on tape by a voyeuristic bystander, George Holliday. Unbeknown to Holliday that night, the nine minutes of taping would change the criminal justice system forever.
With new technological advancements and the Internet, anyone with a cellphone now can lend a watchful eye on the police.
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Today, things are far different and the tape that so tainted the LAPD has a clear legacy in how officers think about their jobs. Police now work in a YouTube world in which cellphones double as cameras, news helicopters transmit close-up footage of unfolding police pursuits, and surveillance cameras capture arrests or shootings. Police officials are increasingly recording their officers. Compared to the cops who beat King, officers these days hit the streets with a new reality ingrained in their minds: Someone is always watching.
“Early on in their training, I always tell them, ‘I don’t care if you’re in a bathroom taking care of your personal business…. Whatever you do, assume it will be caught on video,’ ” said Sgt. Heather Fungaroli, who supervises recruits at the LAPD’s academy. “We tell them if they’re doing the right thing then they have no reason to worry.”