Ac­tivists blast LAPD video show­ing part of con­fronta­tion

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - NATION+WORLD - By Amanda Lee My­ers

When the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment re­leased video cap­tur­ing part of a deadly con­fronta­tion be­tween po­lice and a black man, the crit­i­cism was im­me­di­ate.

Although ac­tivists had been call­ing for the video’s re­lease, they slammed the footage for fail­ing to show the en­tire con­fronta­tion with 18-year-old Car­nell Snell.

And the po­lice depart­ment’s de facto pol­icy on re­leas­ing such videos re­mains the same: keep them from the public ex­cept in rare cases.

“For them to pick and choose what to re­lease, and re­lease only those that they be­lieve help jus­tify a shoot­ing, that’s the worst of all worlds,” said Peter Bib­ring, di­rec­tor of po­lice prac­tices at the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

“It makes them look like they’re just try­ing to spin the in­ci­dent and not pro­vide real trans­parency,” he said.

The LAPD typ­i­cally re­leases video of po­lice shoot­ings only un­der court or­der. Po­lice Chief Char­lie Beck told re­porters the video in­volv­ing Snell was re­leased for public safety rea­sons and to cor­rect mis­in­for­ma­tion.

“This is not done in any way to den­i­grate Mr. Snell,” he said.

The video shows Snell was armed just be­fore he was shot dead Satur­day, but it didn’t show when officers say he twice turned to­ward them hold­ing a loaded semi­au­to­matic hand­gun.

“If they can re­lease that video, they can re­lease ev­ery damn video,” shouted Melina Ab­dul­lah, a Los An­ge­les Black Lives Mat­ter mem­ber who protested Snell’s death at a po­lice com­mis­sion meet­ing Tues­day.

Ab­dul­lah said the footage amounted to posthu­mously as­sas­si­nat­ing Snell’s char­ac­ter and doesn’t prove the shoot­ing was jus­ti­fied.

The quick re­lease of the video “is the best ar­gu­ment against LAPD of­fi­cials’ con­tention that tapes can’t be re­leased im­me­di­ately,” said Earl Ofari Hutchin­son of the Los An­ge­les Ur­ban Pol­icy Round­table.

Re­gard­less of whether the footage sup­ports what po­lice say, Hutchin­son said, videos “must be re­leased promptly to as­sure trans­parency and re­store public trust in the im­par­tial­ity and in­tegrity of in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Beck’s de­ci­sion fol­lowed a sim­i­lar move by po­lice in El Ca­jon, Cal­i­for­nia, last week. The depart­ment ini­tially re­leased a screen­shot from a video of the shoot­ing of Al­fred Olango af­ter he pulled an elec­tronic cig­a­rette de­vice from his front pocket and as­sumed what po­lice called a “shoot­ing stance” while point­ing it at an of­fi­cer.

They later re­leased the full video of the shoot­ing, cit­ing the need to quell es­ca­lat­ing protests and vi­o­lence.

Po­lice in Char­lotte, North Carolina, also re­cently re­leased snip­pets of record­ings of the shoot­ing death of Keith La­mont Scott, which had led to vi­o­lent protests.

Many po­lice de­part­ments have good rea­sons to keep videos from the public, said Louis Dek­mar, vice pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Po­lice and chief of the LaGrange Po­lice Depart­ment in Ge­or­gia.

He said re­leas­ing videos can com­pro­mise in­ves­ti­ga­tions in a num­ber of ways, in­clud­ing taint­ing wit­ness and of­fi­cer me­mories.

And videos don’t al­ways tell the full story, like in Snell’s shoot­ing.

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