Target: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Goal: Denounce support for a policy that allows police to keep dashcam videos, bodycam footage and police reports secret from the public.
Police shooting videos could be kept secret for a period of up to 90 days due to a policy recommendation by a Chicago police accountability task force that’s supported by the mayor Rahm Emanuel. This policy is coming at a time when large portions of the Chicago public have high levels of distrust for their criminal justice system.
The Chicago Task Force on Police Accountability worked for two months with a group made up of lawyers, professors, paralegals and a former U.S. attorney’s spokesman to discuss officer identity topics and video release policies. However, the group did not consult with public watchdog representatives such as journalists and transparency advocates while formulating the new policies.
This effort at building trust between the public and the police comes soon after the release of the video which shows a Chicago police officer shooting a teenager 16 times–a video that the administration were accused of keeping secret. These videos and reports are public information by right, and transparency is necessary if trust is to be regained. Denounce the decision to support a possible 90 day delay in releasing information and footage that belongs to the public.
Dear Mayor Emanuel,
Your support of the policy to withhold police reports, dashcam footage, and bodycam footage for up to 90 days seems short-sighted at best. This information belongs to the public as much as to the police, and releasing it in a timely fashion is the only way to improve transparency in a city that is already plagued with distrust toward the justice system.
Other cities, such as Seattle, have a policy to release footage on almost the same day as an incident that occurs. However, when it came time for the task force you appointed to review policies and investigate options, they did not do their research and remain unsure as to whether similar tactics in Chicago would work. Rather, it appears that they proposed the longest delay possible that would appease the public while allowing for further discrepancies and obfuscation to continue.
The case of Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer, is still at the forefront of the public’s mind. Transparency and trust go hand in hand, and keeping footage and reports secret from the public will only lead to a greater divide and more distrust between the police and the community. I urge you to reconsider the 90 day period for releasing footage of incidents involving police and police shootings.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Daniel Schwen