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Police Are Now Required To Release The Video When An Officer Shoots, But Not All Of It

 September 1, 2020 at 10:20 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Police departments now have to release videos within 45 days. Every time an officer fires their weapon or uses force that causes great bodily injury. But the Lord does not say all the video KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire triggers her phone. This has created an opportunity for a private contractor to produce edited video packages. And it's raised questions from activists and right to know advocates. One warning. This story contains graphic audio. Speaker 2: 00:27 It had been less than a month since the nation erupted in protest. Following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. When on June 27th, San Diego officers shot a man in downtown almost immediately. The news was up on social media and protestors gathered at the scene and called for the release of the officer's body camera and other video of the shooting until last year, such calls would often fall on deaf ears police agencies. Weren't required to release video in a specific timeframe. So in many cases they would keep it secret indefinitely, but a new state law AB seven 48 requires release of these videos within 45 days. In this case, the San Diego police department released a video within 24 hours. Speaker 3: 01:21 Stop. Speaker 2: 01:24 Yeah, but the video didn't include all the raw footage of the shooting. Instead, the department paid a private contractor, $5,000 to produce a package, chronicling the event, the complete digital evidence of the shooting, which could include body camera footage, surveillance video from nearby stores, video from smart streetlight cameras and witnessed cell phone video hasn't been released yet. And likely won't be for at least a year or more when the full investigation into the shooting is complete. This approach does not violate the law, says police spokesman, Lieutenant Shawn tech UGI. Speaker 3: 02:02 What it says is released video essentially to, to the public so that the public understands what occurred. It doesn't say release of all video. It doesn't say release of all raw images. It's essentially just enough information to the public. So the public understands what occurred, Speaker 2: 02:18 But some open record advocates and activists like Tasha Williamson. Aren't satisfied Speaker 3: 02:24 If we're going to talk about transparency, I've called chief in his, like the chief of transparency because he's not right. So for me, if he's the chief of transparency, then release all the videos, Speaker 2: 02:35 [inaudible] disputed any suggestion that the department would produce misleading videos, Speaker 3: 02:40 The video isn't isn't about really seeing what's the best the video releasing the video is about what happened. Speaker 2: 02:45 It was produced by a Vacaville based critical incident video, former TV news journalist. Laura Cole started the company last year and now has contracts with about 100 police agencies statewide. We're going to the body cam footage. We're going to ask for the nine one one call. If there was one we're going to ask for witness statements, we're going to ask for any cell phone footage that might be taken by a bystander, we're going to ask for surveillance video, anything that would help bring context to the situation and creates productions that usually lasts for about 10 minutes, San Diego's videos often start with a message from police chief David [inaudible] describing the context of the shooting. Speaker 4: 03:25 You delayed move slowly. And then an officer saw him reach for a gun Speaker 2: 03:29 Video uses maps audio from nine one, one calls and onscreen text. To give more information before showing footage of the actual shooting. Cole says she produces objective accounts of the incidents, but she acknowledges that she's being paid by the departments. And they have final say over the version that is released to the public. Obviously at the end of the day, this is their video. So they could take something out or add something in that they wanted says San Diego police and other departments will tell her what footage they want redacted before she starts editing. But she's never had a department order changes to a video after it's been produced. And she says she would drop a department as a client. If she felt it was operating in bad faith, somebody came to us and said, we want you to send this video or make us look good. Speaker 2: 04:19 I wouldn't take on that project because that is not going to build community trust. It's important to her that the videos she produces tell the full story. She calls the people who work for her transparency, engagement advisors. We are being hired and paid right by the police department. Bailing shot is the Dean of the college of communications at California state university Fullerton. She says that doesn't make the company a truly objective outside source. Still. She says producing a video can be helpful. Framing the information it's potentially helpful because all of us are so inundated on a daily basis with information that having that information framed for us and contextualized for us is helpful to our understanding. However, because in some communities, there has been a history of mistrust between community members and law enforcement. This is where you run into a challenge. If there is a perception that somehow information may be framed in a way that is not supportive of people being able to fully and accurately draw their own conclusions, critical incident videos are also produced in a way to tell a story from the police. Department's point of view says, Jeremy Ru, he's the associate Dean at UC Berkeley's graduate school of journalism. Speaker 4: 05:51 They've set up this, you know, this narrative arc, if you will, of the piece, one of the things that do, and this is a very popular, um, technique and fiction storytelling, uh, is to set up the scene initially to preface your video or your content with some context. So by contextualizing the video before you even see it, you've already been equipped with certain knowledge and that's what you see in movies. That's what you see in commercials. That's what you see in all kinds of creative media. You know, they opening narration that sorts of sets up the scene. Speaker 2: 06:28 Ru also noted that the San Diego police department is making redactions in some videos, which is an editorial choice. For example, when officers shot Toby Diller on January 24th in the Oak park neighborhood, after a struggle where Diller reached for an officer's gun, the audio is redacted immediately after the officer shoots texts in the video, it says that portion is redacted quote because of graphic audio. That was a result of the gunshot wound to mr. Diller. We consider that audio disturbing and its release in this form would be disrespectful and gratuitous Speaker 4: 07:06 If I had more trust in the police, you know, and I, and I felt that they were entities that are more transparent and held themselves accountable and, um, and had a degree of humility about the way they go about doing things. Then I might see that and might agree. Okay. That's I appreciate that they didn't, uh, you know, uh, put out audio of, of someone dying in agony. Uh, and, and I might accept that. Um, but I think in this age, just seeing all of the instances where, um, of, of, of police malfeasance and, and, and unjustified shootings it, um, that redaction comes across with a lot of skepticism. Speaker 2: 07:46 Ego police have released all the videos of their officers shooting people in the past year, except one that should show an officer shooting, a woman in her apartment in the East village on May 23rd tomorrow. We'll explore the reasons why it hasn't been released. Claire Trek, Asser, KPBS news,

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A California law that went into effect a year ago mandates, with some exceptions, that police departments release videos when officers fire their weapons or use force that causes great bodily injury. But the videos are edited and don't contain all of the footage.
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