San Diego Police Have Released All Videos Of Officers Shooting People This Year, Except For One
Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego police department has for the most part, followed a new state law in publicly released videos. Soon after officers shoot people. But one video from may still hasn't been released and it's not clear why KPBS investigative reporter Claire Tresor looks into that case. The following story contains graphic content Speaker 2: 00:20 Just before 10:00 PM. On Saturday May 23rd, San Diego police officers went to the apartment of a woman who was throwing bottles into the street. Here's a media briefing from that night. Speaker 1: 00:31 Numerous phone calls from different reporting parties stating that a female at the 1200 block of market street was throwing, uh, objects out of the window. Striking some folks on the, on the street as a, uh, went into the, uh, the apartment complex, where she was at, uh, gave her numerous commands to come out. She refused to come out. Speaker 2: 00:53 Officers used a police dog to force her out, according to the San Diego police department report on the incident, the woman attacked the dog with a knife. And so police officers shot her. The report said the woman who is not being named survived the shooting under AB seven 48, a new state law that went into effect a year ago. The department had 45 days to release video of the shooting. The department has complied with that requirement in the seven other instances where officer shot someone since last July, but not this one. Speaker 1: 01:27 If there's an investigative reason as to why you're not released the video that exemption can be made Speaker 2: 01:33 That San Diego police spokesman, Lieutenant Sean tech, Yuchi Speaker 1: 01:36 On the shooting officer involved shooting that haircut on May 23rd. There is an investigatory reason. I don't know what that reason is. I'm not, I'm not in the homicide unit, but there's a reason why that hasn't been released Speaker 2: 01:47 By law. If the department doesn't release video, they're supposed to say a specific reason why the video quote would substantially interfere with an active investigation. The San Diego police department. Hasn't done that in this case. Speaker 1: 02:01 A little hard for me to understand how the disclosure of a video, uh, body worn camera video would disclose information in a way that would prepare an investigation. Speaker 2: 02:13 James Chadwick is a first amendment lawyer for Sheppard Mullin who has represented KPBS in public records cases. Speaker 1: 02:20 They should be providing an explanation of what it is that that is. You know, what it is about this particular situation, this investigation that is going to be compromised potentially by the disclosure of the video, Speaker 2: 02:39 Maybe a temptation among police departments to quickly release the videos where they look good and the shooting appears justified and then delay release of more problematic videos. But that strategy likely won't work. So it says Rachel Lang who helps local police departments with crisis communication. The problem is that some, you know, in a time when it's not cut and dried and the video doesn't exonerate anybody or, or really, um, display what actually happened, um, there there's going to be trouble then. And people will obviously think that there's, they're trying to hide something. So there's, there's a little bit of a give and take there, but I mean, I would err toward releasing information more quickly laying added that the Memorial day killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police has permanently raised the stakes for law enforcement agencies when it comes to transparency regarding use of force incidents. Speaker 2: 03:32 I don't think we're ever going back to a time when the public will forget, you know, uh, you know, it's not like you can just ride it out and hope that the new cycle moves on. I think if they do, it's wishful thinking, I don't, I just don't think we're ever going back to that time. It's like suddenly we finally reached a point and I think a lot of people said, you know, we've been seeing this for years. People have been releasing these videos for years and years and years and something finally just, you know, I think the George Floyd video finally just broke through and made people rethink how they've, you know, approach giving the benefit of the doubt to police officers. That's certainly true for Tasha Williamson, a San Diego activist. She says about the San Diego police. They're releasing things that, uh, are in their favor. Speaker 2: 04:19 So they think, quote unquote, the anything that's not in their favor, they need more time. The lawyer James Chadwick says it's possible, but highly unlikely that the San Diego police department is holding back the video because the officer is going to be charged. It's more likely that the woman who is shot or someone else involved will face prosecution. Most of the other subjects who are shot by police have died. So they wouldn't be prosecuted, assemblymen filtering who wrote the law, requiring the videos to be released, says he included the investigation exemption as a compromise, but hopes to refine the law in the future. Speaker 3: 05:00 When you start with, with no law, it's very difficult to build on, you know, build on something. And you also don't know where the starting point is. So I think we want to see how it's working. Um, and obviously has as laws go into effect, you see whether there are loopholes or do you see definitely whether there are areas of which, um, you know, are, are areas of concern. And so based on that, we would obviously make changes. Joining me now is KPBS investigative reporter Claire triglyceride, sir. Hi Claire. Hi. Well, in part, one of your story, you spoke with activists who say police are exploiting a loophole in AB seven 48, that's the law requiring police to release videos. What's their argument. Speaker 2: 05:40 The law says that you need to release audio and video. Um, anytime an officer fires his or her weapon, or, uh, uses force that causes great bodily injury. And I don't think that a lot of attention has really been paid to this law. So it wasn't really clear at least for local activists, that what police are releasing is not all the video and audio it's it's these produced packages, as I said in my story. Um, so I don't know if it's really exploiting a loophole because they are following the law, but, uh, but the activists are saying, you know, we, we as taxpayers pay for, um, for the body camera for the collection of all this footage. So why don't you just release all of it, um, right away instead of, uh, releasing a produce package first and then, you know, only releasing everything, uh, a year or two later, um, once the entire, once the entire investigation is complete. Speaker 4: 06:43 And as your story points out, the police response is they're simply trying to put out this video narrative of a shooting that makes sense to the public because the raw images can be confusing, et cetera. But if they were to issue a misleading video, wouldn't they be exposed eventually by say the attorney for the suspect that was shot or within the city be perhaps liable if the police back to false narrative. Speaker 2: 07:07 Yeah, I think that they would, the issue is that it would be, you know, a year or two from now. And so maybe people wouldn't remember, uh, there's there was a story in the LA times, uh, just this weekend about, about a shooting up in LA where the Sheriff's department, um, released a video, an image of the shooting, and it showed a man holding a gun, um, back in 2015 and there were protests and the protests died down. Um, and then, uh, two years later, more video came out and it showed that that wasn't really the full picture, but at that point, you know, people have moved on the protests have moved on. So I think that that is the concern, um, you know, to be fair to the San Diego police department, they say, absolutely, that's not their intention. That's not what they're doing. They're showing what really happened with these produced packages. It's not about trying to spin it and make the shooting look justified or, you know, make, make what happened, appear in the best light possible. Speaker 4: 08:08 Right. So yeah, timing could be everything well since this law requiring police to release videos of shootings within 45 days since that took effect, what seems to be the criteria for our quick release versus a delayed release of footage? Speaker 2: 08:24 Well, it's, it's not really clear. Um, the last three shootings that have happened, uh, since June. So after the, um, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, um, there have been, you know, anytime there's been a shooting in San Diego, there have been quick action on protests. And then the police department has released video very quickly within 72 to 72 hours each time, and one time within 24 hours. Um, but the police say that they can't commit to that. Um, but they also don't say, you know, how they would make a decision of whether it would be a quick release or not. And then as I said, in the, in the second part of the story, um, there's this one shooting from May 23rd, uh, where they haven't released any video. And we really don't know the reason why, you know, you could maybe speculate that, Oh, in that case, the officer who shot the woman, um, is going to be charged, but, uh, lawyers, uh, first amendment experts say they don't really think that's the case. So it's really, it's really not clear what it is about that one. That's, that's so different from the other videos that they have released. Speaker 4: 09:38 And that's obviously outside the 45 day window, how can police legally withhold that video? Speaker 2: 09:44 Right. Well, so written into the law, there's this exemption that says, you know, if, if releasing the video would interfere with an investigation or a criminal proceeding in some way, then, um, police departments can, uh, hold on to the video and not release anything, but they really need to explain and justify why specifically releasing the video would interfere with an investigation or, or a criminal proceeding. Um, and, and, you know, this is a new law, so it's still kind of being worked out. Um, the lawyer that I spoke with says that the explanation that the city has given isn't really enough of an explanation, um, they need to say more and then it's just, they need to say every 30 days, we're still needing to hold onto this video. Here's why we're still needing to hold on to this video. Here's why, um, but they are supposed to give it, uh, an estimated end date to that. And they haven't, haven't done that as well. Speaker 4: 10:47 Yeah. And of course, as we noted a moment ago, the, uh, the news stories may not catch up with that at 30 day explanation. And then I guess they'd be vulnerable to accusations. They violated the law. They acted in bad faith by holding onto that video. But again, it's a timing thing, Speaker 2: 11:03 Right? Exactly. Maybe a trial comes in a year or something like that at that point. People have moved on, may not remember about this. Although at the same time I did interview, um, Rachel Lang who's a crisis communications strategist. And she says, you know, if, if police departments in this current time think that they can just ride out a bad news cycle and wait for people to forget, she doesn't think that the activists and the public are really going to go for that anymore, um, that they, that they have longer memories and they're committed to, to this activism. And so, you know, that that strategy may not work if, if a department is trying that Speaker 4: 11:48 Well, finally, San Diego voters are going to be deciding in November on whether to install a police board with subpoena power and real teeth, uh, might such a board have a more objective say on the issue of public release of police videos. Speaker 2: 12:02 Well, I think that they would have access to those videos because they will have more investigatory power and, um, and subpoena power. I don't know if you know, they will make it then that, that they're going to be releasing videos to the public, or if they will just be using those videos for their own investigations. Um, so I think, you know, we would have to wait and see first of all, if it, if it gets passed and then kind of how, how it plays out once, once that board is, is set up Speaker 4: 12:34 Right. Still another interesting development as our election moves closer here in November. I've been speaking with KPBS, investigative reporter, Claire Traeger, sir. Thanks Claire.