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increased pressure on cops to release body-cam video in police shooting cases

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increased pressure on cops to release body-cam video in police shooting cases

Post by Admin on Tue Aug 23, 2016 3:28 pm

Violence erupted earlier this month in Milwaukee after a man fleeing a traffic stop was shot and killed by police. Authorities say video from the shooting will not be released during the investigation. (Photo: Calvin Mattheis/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP)

"Pics or it didn't happen."

It's a popular response on the Internet when someone makes an extraordinary or unverifiable claim.

But in many ways, it's also become the voice of the public in the aftermath of officer-involved fatal shootings. Increasingly, citizens want video proof before they'll accept what authorities tell them about police shootings. The demand is creating a Catch-22 for police chiefs trying to juggle the public's right to know, officer safety and the integrity of a criminal investigation.

"Police departments in major cities across the country are aware of the delicate balance between what the community needs to know . and the criminal justice process," Milwaukee Chief Edward Flynn said the day after an officer-involved fatal shooting sparked rioting in his city earlier this month.



A Los Angeles Police officer wears body camera during a 2014 police presentation. (Photo: Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Milwaukee, like a growing number of U.S. cities seeking better accountability and transparency, requires its officers to wear body cameras. The camera on patrolman Dominique Heaggan-Brown's uniform was recording on Aug. 13 when he shot and killed Sylville Smith during a foot chase. Two other officers on the scene were also wearing body cameras.

A day after the shooting, Flynn described to reporters what he saw on the video.

"The individual was armed," the chief said. "The individual did turn toward the officer with the firearm in his hand. You can't tell when the officer discharges his firearm."

The video hasn't been released to the public, nor will it be anytime soon.

"Release of the videos would compromise the integrity of the investigation," Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel told reporters Monday. Schimel, head of the state's Department of Justice, which is leading the probe, said the footage most likely won't be shown to the public unless charges are filed.

That decision isn't sitting well among residents and activists.

"What the video depicts already has been described by local authorities, and keeping it from the public only fuels speculation on what it reveals," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote in an editorial last week. "More harm in the form of unwarranted speculation can come from not releasing the video than from releasing it. Tensions in the Milwaukee community remain high."

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