Po­lice video to be shown

Images of shoot­ing to be city’s 1st re­lease of body cam­era footage

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Justin Fen­ton

In a first for the city, Bal­ti­more po­lice say they plan to re­lease body cam­era footage this week that cap­tures an of­fi­cer shoot­ing a sus­pect.

Po­lice spokesman T.J. Smith said footage of the shoot­ing of a knife-wield­ing man in Waverly on Friday would be re­leased “likely by mid­week.”

About 600 city of­fi­cers have been equipped with cam­eras since the depart­ment launched the $11.6 mil­lion pro­gram in May, part of a na­tional move­ment to put cam­eras on of­fi­cers as sev­eral high-pro­file shoot­ings have brought in­creased scru­tiny to po­lice ac­tions.

But the ques­tion of when to re­lease such footage has been con­tentious, and in Bal­ti­more, lit­tle footage has been seen by the pub­lic.

There have been 11 shoot­ings by Bal­ti­more po­lice this year. Po­lice have said none un­til Friday had been cap­tured by body cam­era.

City pros­e­cu­tors, who have ob­jected to the re­lease of ev­i­dence in pend­ing cases, did not di­rectly an­swer when asked whether they sup­ported or op­posed the re­lease of Friday’s video.

“The State’s At­tor­ney’s Of­fice un­der­stands the im­por­tance of trans­parency in our fight against crime,” the of­fice said in a state­ment in re­sponse to ques­tions Mon­day. “How­ever, com­ment­ing or re­leas­ing ev­i­dence in open or pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions could com­pro­mise the ju­di­cial process and jeop­ar­dize the in­tegrity of cases.”

City Coun­cil­woman Mary Pat Clarke said re­leas­ing the footage was con­sis­tent with the City Coun­cil’s expectations for how the cam­eras would be used.

“It’s about be­ing trans­par­ent be­tween the po­lice and the pub­lic,” said Clarke, who

rep­re­sents the area where Friday’s shoot­ing took place. “I’m pleased it’s hap­pen­ing with such speed. It doesn’t do any good to have video if the pub­lic can’t see it and if the of­fi­cers can’t see it.”

Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis said Friday that of­fi­cers were called to the 3300 block of Green­mount Ave. about 9:30 a.m. in re­sponse to a 911 re­port of a 48-year-old man with knives in each hand threat­en­ing peo­ple on the side­walk.

Three uni­formed of­fi­cers is­sued com­mands for the man to drop the knives, Davis said, but he did not. Davis said the of­fi­cers used a Taser on him to no ef­fect.

Two of­fi­cers fired their weapons, hit­ting the man sev­eral times. They were iden­ti­fied as Of­fi­cer Gary Brown, a 16-year vet­eran, and Of­fi­cer Supreme Jones, who joined the depart­ment in 2014.

One wit­ness told The Bal­ti­more Sun that the of­fi­cers had no choice but to fire. Another ques­tioned their ac­tions. Davis praised the of­fi­cers. “I’m so proud of th­ese of­fi­cers, the way they re­sponded to the scene, the way that they at­tempted to de-es­ca­late,” he said. “Un­for­tu­nately, that didn’t work.”

The man, who has not been iden­ti­fied, was ini­tially said to be in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, but po­lice said Mon­day his con­di­tion had sta­bi­lized. He re­mains hos­pi­tal­ized and has not been charged with a crime, Smith said.

Af­ter the shoot­ing, passers-by chanted a pro­fane crit­i­cism of the po­lice. A few pro­test­ers gath­ered at the scene Satur­day for a demon­stra­tion.

The shoot­ing was the sec­ond in four days by city po­lice. In the first, po­lice said, sev­eral of­fi­cers were at the scene but none had body cam­eras.

In July, one of four of­fi­cers in­volved in a fa­tal shoot­ing in West Bal­ti­more was wear­ing a body cam­era, po­lice said, but he did not have time to ac­ti­vate it.

The re­lease of body cam­era footage, like the closed-cir­cuit sur­veil­lance cam­era footage that has been around for more than a decade, is gov­erned by the Mary­land Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion Act. That law gives agen­cies wide lat­i­tude to with­hold ma­te­ri­als while an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­tin­u­ing.

State law does not in­clude ex­emp­tions specif­i­cally for body cam­era footage.

That means au­thor­i­ties de­cide whether to re­lease footage, and they have done so oc­ca­sion­ally. In Fe­bru­ary 2015, po­lice re­leased sur­veil­lance footage of a po­lice shoot­ing in­volv­ing a man who charged at the of­fi­cer with­out ap­par­ent provo­ca­tion.

They also re­leased footage in April from in­side a liquor store where an off-duty of­fi­cer fa­tally shot a man who had pulled out what was later determined to be a replica gun. A man who claimed to be a wit­ness said the of­fi­cer had shot the man in the street. The video showed that the shoot­ing oc­curred in­side the store.

Other times, po­lice may re­lease images or clips in an at­tempt to iden­tify a sus­pect in crimes not in­volv­ing of­fi­cers.

Last month, The Bal­ti­more Sun was de­nied body cam­era footage of a gun ar­rest. Wayne Brooks, a le­gal af­fairs as­sis­tant for the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment, said pros­e­cu­tors had cau­tioned against the re­lease of video.

“They strongly ad­vise that we do not make a prac­tice of re­leas­ing ar­rest videos when charges are pend­ing and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is still be­ing con­ducted,” Brooks wrote in a let­ter of de­nial. “They feel this prac­tice could pos­si­bly tam­per the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the pend­ing trial.”

Pros­e­cu­tors have closed in­ves­ti­ga­tions of three shoot­ings by po­lice this year, find­ing that the of­fi­cers were jus­ti­fied in their ac­tions. The rest of the cases are pend­ing.

Bal­ti­more City po­lice launched the body cam­era pro­gram in May.

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