National Fight Over Police Videos Being Exempt From Public Transparency Continues

Police videos are exempt from public transparency thanks to lawmakers.

A police video exemption law has been introduced on the Ohio House floor by Rep. Niraj Antani on Monday, the same day as North Carolina’s Gov. Pat McCrory signed a law to prevent police recorded videos from becoming public record.

A recent report by State Scoop refers to the Kansas House legislatures’ failure to pass their police video exempt law on its second attempt since March, no doubt taking advantage of the latest news.

This month, the mandate put in last year in Connecticut for state and university police to wear body cameras was enforced. However, the article states that the State Capital Police are exempt from recording videos, as they don’t have to wear them. Similar arguments were already made by Republican lawmakers from the aforementioned states.

Pat McCrory signs another controversial bill to protect police officers.

Last year, the Tampa Bay Times wrote about the state’s body cam police videos being exempt from public view, but it also documents the arguments about the recording of sound, which could be argued to be a violation of the state’s wire-tapping laws.

The recent killing of Philando Castile happened after the state of Minnesota announced on June 29 that they would be outfitting 600 officers with body cameras in a week. The body camera laws had been debated since the reports of officer-involved shootings of unarmed black citizens in 2015. The state finally settled on making body cam police videos exempt from public view until after an investigation is completed.

In this case, however, it would be Castile’s girlfriend who would catch the video on her smartphone, as the officer was not wearing a body cam.

Racial Profiling Philando Castile

Activists hang sign demanding justice for Philando.

KARE 11, an NBC affiliate out of St. Paul, Minnesota, reported the moments leading up to the shooting of Philando Castile on July 6. A police scanner audio recording of the St. Anthony police officer who shot him reveals what could be another reason he pulled the couple over, aside from a broken tail light.

The recording was provided by a viewer of the local news source, which KARE 11 was still working to verify despite the story going viral.

“I’m going to stop a car. I’m going to check IDs. I have reason to pull it over. The two occupants just look like one of our suspects, just ’cause of the wide-set nose.”

The article refers to a press release earlier in the week that said St. Anthony police officers were investigating a robbery at a gas station which took place on July 2 near Lauderdale.

The officer’s description in the recording has angered many who view it as racial profiling, even though it’s often the kind of description offered in that line of work, especially at the scene of a crime when there’s a reason to describe the criminal if they’ve fled in order to aid investigators.

This appears to be the case as well, since, at the time of this reporting, there was no information to say whether they found the suspects in the gas station robbery.

The same source, however, points to another article about racial profiling, which points to the 79 different charges filed against Philando Castile when he was alive. All of them were vehicle and traffic stop-related, including driving on a suspended license, no proof of insurance, and seat-belt and parking violations.

Armed And/Or Dangerous With Video?

The article also reports that none of the charges or convictions against him over time involved violent acts such as fleeing the police, threats against them or even illegal gun related issues, which allowed him to apply and receive a permit to carry a gun.

To many, the “wide-set nose” comment seems to contradict the initial reason the officer first gave for pulling them over, which he claimed was a broken tail light before the release of the audio recording.

The anger expressed over the comment doesn’t look at the descriptive responsibilities of law enforcement. It refers to the statement as racial profiling because a wide-set nose description does not narrow down the suspects to anything other than to make a generalization of being black.

Even though the police officers are exempt from recording videos, it took a combination of the Facebook recording and the police scanner audio to begin a public debate.

Lawmakers are currently looking for ways to defend police officers from being scrutinized in public. It’s possible at this point, and soon police videos recorded by the public could be made illegal.

[Photo by University of Cincinnati Campus Police/AP Images]