How Do Civilian Clothed Police Make Police More Accountable?

Photo credit: NBC News

Picture description: On the left is a portrait of Nouman Raja and on the right is a portrait of Corey Jones.

In light of Corey Jones' death, I am wondering how protocol allowing police to be on duty while in civilian clothes creates an environment of police accountability.

"A police officer shot and killed Corey Jones after his car broke down on a Florida highway" last month. "Jones, 31, was on his way home after playing drums early Sunday when his car stalled along Interstate 95." According to the police, "Palm Beach Gardens police Officer Nouman Raja believed it was an abandoned car and stopped to investigate ... as on duty but was wearing civilian clothing and driving an unmarked car."

"A source close to the investigation told CNN on condition of anonymity Wednesday that investigators believe the shooting was a result of Jones and Raja misidentifying each other. The source said Raja felt he had to check the car because there had been burglaries in the area recently and that burglars had parked near the ramp where Jones' vehicle was. Raja "was working as part of a detail related to a string of burglaries in the city," Stepp told reporters Tuesday. The anonymous source told CNN on Wednesday that investigators believe Raja may not have made it sufficiently clear he was an officer and that Jones may not have heard what the officer said. Palm Beach Gardens police have not said how or whether Raja identified himself to Jones."

Given that Corey is black and given how many extrajudicial police killings of black people that has happened in the past year alone, I am skeptical how much Raja wearing uniform would have changed whether Corey would be alive with us today. However, there is something to be said about the power that Raja possesed as an on-duty police officer out of uniform. Raja was not indentifiable as a state agent while he held the priveleges of being one. If we as citizens cannot even identify who is and who isn't entrusted with the power to "protect and serve", then how can we adequately hold them to appropriate standards set out by international human rights? How did Raja being in plain cloths lend itself to a situation of police accountability before he killed Jones? Even though police are rarely indicted for murder after they kill, how can we increase police accountability to a point where people are proactively held accountable?

One thing I know is that it doesn't start with civilian clothed police.

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