I take pictures of almost every meal I have because I never know when I might need a picture of those clams, that pizza, this salad.
Years ago, I was having dinner with Oak Parker Rob Gardner at a Yucatecan restaurant on the north side of Chicago. Of course, I was shooting pictures of my dinner when I heard a woman behind me whisper, incredulously, to her tablemates, “That guy is taking pictures of his foodI”
No one hears that kind of observation anymore because everyone is taking pictures of their food.
Food, for many of us, is nourishment, of course, but it’s also a kind of entertainment, and I hope my food pix on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are entertaining.
But there’s a much more critical use of the iPhone: the documentation of injustice. I’m talking specifically about police misbehavior.
For millennia, some of those charged with law enforcement – whether Roman centurions or medieval English beadles – have used their position to do pretty much whatever the hell they please.
Now before I go further, let me say a sincere Thank You to the vast majority of law enforcement officials who every day put their lives on the line to keep us safe. To bring it closer to home, I interviewed a few Oak Park police when my friends and fellow Oak Parkers Steve Gevinson, Phil Thompson and I were writing Increase the Peace, a book about discussing school violence in the classroom. During those interviews, I was consistently impressed by the dignity, , intelligence, professionalism and commitment of the people who patrol the streets of our Village.
But there’s no denying, just as there are many criminals out there, there are bad cops out there.
Last week in South Carolina, the world was able to see a police officer shoot an unarmed fleeing man in the back and then, apparently, leave some object near the fallen body. The fleeing man was black, one is almost tempted to add “of course” because for a long time some police have seemingly felt that they can freely vent their inexplicable hatred at minorities by abusing and sometimes killing them because, you know, who is going to find out?
Well, with the iPhone, the portable video cameras so many of us hold in our pockets and purses, it’s becoming easier for citizens to monitor police actions – and there’s no way this officer would be facing charges if it weren’t for the fact that his actions were recorded for everyone to see. Otherwise, it’d be just his word against a dead man’s.
The iPhone and similar mobile devices are now the most powerful weapons in the fight against the injustice of some police actions, and thank god I’ve never had to use mine that way. I’m happy just taking pictures of clams and pizza and salad. But I have to believe that just knowing that we are now a vast citizenry armed with evidence-gathering photographic gear, some of those – both misbehaving police as well as criminals – may be less likely to do the evil that otherwise would go undocumented.