Kincannon should release the A-E tapes

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

Daunte Wright, 20, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minn., just before 2 p.m. Sunday, April 11. The body camera videos from officers were released to the public the next day and posted online here at 8:10 p.m. Monday, April 12. The story states: “The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension identified the officer (who fired the fatal bullet) as Kim Potter, who has been with the Brooklyn Center police for 26 years. The BCA investigation is still ongoing, and officials did not release any further information about Potter, including her race.”

Adam Toledo, 13, was shot and killed by a police officer in a Chicago alley at 2 a.m. March 29. According to this report by CNN, the boy’s family saw the body-worn camera footage on April 13 and it was released to the public on April 15. “I don’t want to get into the real substance of this because the independent investigation is going on, but I’ve seen no evidence whatsoever that Adam Toledo shot at the police,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

George Floyd, 46, was killed on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minn., while being arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit bill. The trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is underway. Interesting research on the release of body-camera footage is worth the read here.

Basically, District Judge Peter Cahill initially limited distribution of the footage, saying many of the things Knox County Atty. Gen. Charme Allen said today. But on Aug. 7, 2020, he reversed his earlier opinion and allowed release of the footage after a coalition of media companies challenged him.

The media coalition said it had a First Amendment right to obtain the videos. Since Cahill, who also heard the motion, backed down and released the tapes, the assertion was not tested on appeal.

Anthony J. Thompson Jr., 17, was killed Monday, April 12, by Knoxville Police in a restroom at Austin-East Magnet High School. He had brought a handgun into the school. As misinformation and rumors spread on social media, officials said the body-worn camera footage  will not be released, pending possible criminal charges. Atty. Gen. Charme Allen’s statement is here.

The Tennessee Open Records Act guarantees any citizen can request public records and a statement of purpose is not required. There are limited exceptions: Medical records of patients in state institutions; some investigative records; public school student records; and some economic development issues, such as land acquisition.

Amelia Parker, a member of Knoxville City Council, wrote: “Body camera footage is a part of the public record and must be released for public inspection in a timely manner. Transparency builds trust and currently Knoxville is failing in its commitment to the transparency that our investment in body cams was intended to bring our city.”

Parker is right.

The city just spent almost $5 million on a five-year contract to equip police officers with body cameras. Mayor Indya Kincannon says she wants the body-cam footage released.

Mayor Kincannon: You signed the check. You bought the body cameras. The footage is yours. Release it. Lawyers complicate things, given that they’re paid to keep clients out of trouble. You are the CEO, elected to lead the city. Release the tapes.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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