Police Abuse

Who Will Get to See the Footage of Keith Scott's Killing by Police?

North Carolina's new law gives authorities control over how much we're allowed to see, and therefore how much context we have about community anger.

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Charlotte riots
Jeff Siner/TNS/Newscom

Even though the City of Charlotte purchased body cameras and trained all police to use them and wear them, the officer who shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott Tuesday was not wearing one. The officer was in plainclothes, but several other officers on the scene were wearing body cameras and officials have or will be looking over the footage.

The big question is when—or if—members of the public will get to see the footage. Given the current outrage, rioting, and violence, it's certainly going to be in Charlotte's interest to reveal some of it so that the public can get an answer to the question of whether Scott was actually holding a book or a gun. Today, Charlotte's chief of police said they have no intention of releasing video footage of the shooting "to the masses," though and also said the footage itself does not conclusively prove whether Scott was holding a gun on officers. Whether the community will accept his decision is another matter.

But because the state of North Carolina just passed a new law that seriously curtails the transparency of police body camera footage, there's also question of what is actually legal for Charlotte to allow the public to see. As I previously blogged, North Carolina's new body camera law creates an assumption that footage of police encounters is not a public record. The law gives police tremendous amount of discretion to decide who may even view recordings of police body cameras and a judge the power to decide whether and how much camera footage may be released.

Fortunately this new law doesn't take effect until October 1. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts told the Washington Post that she didn't believe the law would therefore apply in this case because the shooting happened before the law would be implemented. Right now the available body camera footage has not been released because it's part of an active investigation. But Roberts makes it pretty clear in her interview that she at least wants to allow some community leaders outside law enforcement or city officials to see the footage.

What would be happening if this shooting had occurred after October 1? I think, in this particular case, because there's so much unrest—unrest that has led to pretty serious violence—police officials and the relevant judge would most likely agree that it's in the public interest to be able to see the parts of the body camera footage that show what actually happened.

This is an easy decision, though. The backlash is so huge that refusing to release the footage essentially feeds a public safety threat. What should be of a greater concern about this law is the number of situations that don't get so much media attention and therefore the political pressure that will encourage transparency. This may well end up being another situation like what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, where it turned out that police may have acted appropriately in that incident, but there were so many other problems with how the police and the city itself treated its own citizens. The outrage over Michael Brown's shooting was the breaking point about a whole lot of abusive treatment by Ferguson of its citizens, and that abuse only became widespread public knowledge as a direct result of the protests.

The ability to conceal other incidents of potential police misconduct will feed a cultural situation where people who are not directly affected have a much harder time understanding why a community is outraged and are reacting in this fashion. Even now, despite so much reporting showing how small municipalities in St. Louis County nickel-and-dime their own poor and minority citizens via an oppressive, punishing policing and court system, there are those who simply dismiss the protests because Brown was likely no innocent kid.

It's very easy to see it happening again should it turn out that Scott's shooting was justified. Some are already inclined to dismiss the protesting already because some folks have turned to violence. In such an environment, concealing body camera footage allows officials to play dumb about complaints about citizen treatment.

Much of the reason that we're seeing more conservatives join the push for serious criminal justice reform is because they're developing a better sense over time of the actual impacts of bad policing and sentencing practices. The data shows that the merciless manner by which the United States has fought the drug war doesn't work, ruins families, and doesn't make society safer.

Body camera footage will help give people outside these communities a better sense over time how police treat the citizens they're supposed to be protecting and a better sense of how to evaluate and interpret these community backlashes. The circumstances of he the shooting should decide whether or not the officer did anything wrong and should be disciplined or charged with a crime. But the context of the shooting put in perspective with how police in Charlotte interact with citizens also needs to be evaluated in order to shape enforcement behavior. Keeping all footage secret by default does not assist the community in watching the watchers.

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  1. “We have to riot to see what is in it”?

    1. Not even then, peasant.

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    2. “A riot is an ugly ting and I tink it’s about time ve had one!” – Inspector Kemp

        1. Nice knockers

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    3. If we had Quiet Riot, we would have seen everything!

  2. Charlotte’s chief of police said they have no intention of releasing video footage of the shooting “to the masses,” though and also said the footage itself does not conclusively prove whether Scott was holding a gun on officers.

    Well, I guess we know why they won’t be releasing it.

    1. Which tells me it probably was a book after all.

      1. Ahh the web these people find themselves in. One wonders about the book. Cause that is one fine pig.

    2. Yeah, had it showed Scott pointing a gun at the officers while yelling “You won’t take me a live, copper!” that shit would be all over the evening news.

  3. though and also said the footage itself does not conclusively prove whether Scott was holding a gun on officers. Whether the community will accept his decision is another matter.

    So, not to play armchair quarterback, but to play armchair quarterback, if the bodycam footage (from the perspective of the officer) doesn’t ‘conclusively’ show Scott was holding a gun, then that’s ipso facto evidence they shouldn’t have shot him, no?

    1. I think “the community” has already demonstrated that it’s indisposed toward accepting his decision.

    2. C’mon, he was guilty of something. Amirite?

      1. Being black.

        1. Look, even innocent Black men have a real justification for running from the police – therefore if a Black man *doesn’t* run from the cops then he’s getting ready to throw down.

        2. An uppity black with fancy book learning

          /Irish (I kid, I kid)

          1. /Irish (I kid, I kid)

            Did anyone ever find out where he and Nicole ran off to?

            1. I think they headed for that colony for the terminally ginger a charity set up in Tacoma.

              1. I just want to know if the rumor of a pregnancy was true.

                1. It is not. Irish just had a big lunch that day.

    3. The officer that did shoot him could simply be in the way.

      1. There were three cameras.

        1. They were all hiding behind Vinson.

  4. Reposting, because I can and you can’t stop me.

    AAA spokeswoman Tiffany Wright said news of supply shortages has caused area drivers to rush to the pumps to fill up, and the increased demand helps prop up prices.

    “Even though the pipeline is going to be back up and running, there’s still a lot of panic out there,” Wright said. “Folks who don’t even need to are filling up their tanks and topping off. It’s happening at an alarming rate.

    That was the headlines going into this shooting. That was the public atmosphere in which this played out.

    I found it worth noting, not as causative but in the general beard-strokey sense. You may now make homo jokes.

    1. I’d prefer to make australopithecus jokes, thank you very much.

    2. People complain about shortages and price gouging at the same time.

      People are morons.

      1. “There is a shortage of Price Gouging!”

        /confused prog

  5. It’s ironic because I know people who became cops who are vehemently opposed to allowing ‘citizens’ to record them in action. They turn around and argue (after the initial claims are shot down) that there’s no need for it, anyway, as they are wearing body cameras (at least in his area) already.

  6. It’s very easy to see it happening again should it turn out that Scott’s shooting was justified. Some are already inclined to dismiss the protesting already because some folks have turned to violence.

    Here’s a pro-tip for Police Depts across the country, free of charge: Stop hiring pants-shitting baboons with itchy trigger fingers. Maybe this shit will go away on its own.

    1. You’re gonna have to speak to the union. They set the rules.

    2. Your comment harms and offends the baboon community. Please do not make any more scurrilous comparisons between the police and baboons or you will here from our lawyers! Good day, sir.

      1. or you will here from our lawyers!

        Ah-HA! Baboons don’t have lawyers!

        1. I’ll have you know we are a very litigious species. You just haven’t heard about it because unlike some people, our gag orders stick.

          1. Dr. Zaius will here of this!

            [spins sharply, storms out]

            1. Dr. Zaius is an orangutan! Do we all look the same to you, ignorant human?

              1. *hesitates* Y-e-e-e-e-s?

                1. That’s refreshingly honest. I like you, ignorant human. Even with that ugly flat face you humans invariably have.

              2. we all

                What do you mean “we all”? Hmmm? *strikes primate aggressive pose

            2. Baboons aren’t even apes.

              1. That means that they can read philosophy.

  7. Oh, also: If you’re evaluating the validity of protests based on its worst actors, remember that’s how the left evaluated the Tea Party movement (and Trump supporters)

    Alt-text shots fired by Shackleford!

    1. I’ll do them one better. If you’re throwing shit, lighting cars on fire, smashing windows, or dragging people out of safety to beat them, you ain’t no fucking protestor. You’re a rioter.

      1. I saw this up close in Oakland during the Oscar Grant demonstrations. People came to protest, held speeches, marched, and then went home. Rioters came late, ignored the speeches, then went about looting and running amok. News said “protests turn violent” as if they were the same people or even had the same cause of action (advocating for social change vs. “let’s fuck shit up because we can”).

      2. It seems like the rioters and protestors are mostly distinct groups. Though in this case, since it started more organically than a lot of organized protests do, the line might be blurred more than it often is.

  8. From the serious violence link:

    At a news conference, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said he reviewed video of the shooting and it “does not give me absolute, definitive visual evidence that will confirm a person was pointing a gun. I did not see that in the video.” But he said the totality of the evidence supports the police conclusion that officers confronting the man faced an imminent, deadly threat.

    You can trust me. I’m from the governemnt police.

    1. Which they would not have been in if they had not confronted an innocent man going about his business. Another case of cops unnecessarily putting themselves in danger then killing to justify it.

      1. Oh, completely. That too.

        There’s no situation known to mankind, no matter how innocuous or peaceful, that a modern-day cop can’t escalate into a full-fledged nuclear war.

    2. the totality of the evidence supports the police conclusion

      IOW, unless there are irrefutable video or audio recordings that contradict the police claims, we’ll take their claims at face value, no matter how formulaic, unlikely, or contradicted by other testimony or physical evidence.

    3. Totality of the circs, bro

      hth

      smooches

    4. But the video IS the totality of the evidence.

  9. I keep reading how these cops who were there looking for some other guy approached Scott yet he was the one who posed an immediate threat.

    1. Exactly. The police appear to have had no valid business or justification for initiating contact with Scott in the first place.

      1. Parking While Black

        Of the many forms of police harassment faced by communities of color, “driving while black” is probably the most well-known, well-documented, and prominently used method. The underpinnings for police to racially profile black motorists?the authority of the police to forcibly detain motorists for minor traffic infractions as a pretext to search a motorist and his car?has even been enshrined by the Supreme Court.

        Recently, a federal court has given constitutional credence to an even grosser abuse of citizens by police: Let’s call it “parking while black.” In United States v. Johnson, decided in May, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2?1 to uphold a police search of a group of black people who were just sitting in a parked car. Fortunately, the entire circuit is going to rehear the case, which could decide whether the insidious practice of racial profiling of motorists on the highway will extend to racial profiling of motorists in parked cars.

        1. Why am I not surprised?

          1. Revenues gotta stream

      2. That’s the kind of issue that copcam footage could help sort out.

        1. Which is why it would seem they would want to release it if in fact it does show the cops behaving reasonably and lawfully.

  10. therefore how much context we have about community anger.

    So they’re basically asking for riots then.

  11. “Given the current outrage, rioting, and violence, it’s certainly going to be in Charlotte’s interest to reveal some of it so that the public can get an answer to the question of whether Scott was actually holding a book or a gun.”

    Meaning…that if the cop did wrong, that would make the rioting “understandable” and a “regrettable but predictable reaction to blah blah”?

    “We shouldn’t have to wait for the footage to be revealed during a civil or criminal trial…I’m angry *now*!”

    And we saw in Ferguson how much good it did to promptly release video footage casting doubt on the rioters’ narrative.

    1. There’s two questions here:

      Was the shooting justified? I dunno, but we need to find out.

      Is the rioting justified? I can give you an answer now – it’s not.

      1. Is the rioting justified? I can give you an answer now – it’s not.

        I disagree. Its definitely idiotic and counter-productive – if you’re pissed at the cops, burn the cop-shop down, not your neighbor’s store. And they’re not going to go after the cops or the city because they’re scared shitless of them. 1 – cops can already shoot you pretty much with impunity, 2 – get too uppity and the governor will call out the National Guard.

        *But* – the instant the cops stonewall people should be up in arms. Every time a cop draws a gun he should be worried that he’s going to cause a riot. At least half the time a cop pulls the trigger its because of ‘mistaken perceptions’ or him escalating the situation until he can half-assedly justify the shoot.

        Being ‘nice’ and ‘cooperative’ and ‘working within the system’ to change things isn’t working. These guys, especially their unions – and some will say the union reps aren’t real cops but you know what, you keep letting these guys talk for you so deal with it – have the temerity to push back on this bullshit so we need to push harder.

        1. Well, you could try peacefully kneel during the unnecessary national anthem before a sporting event, but that makes you worse than watching Hitler fuck your beloved childhood pet, so riot it is!

          1. You pathetic Earther dolt! He was worshiping his true god, General Zod!

            1. Zod, Schmod, I want my baboonman!

              1. [Forces SugarFree to watch a Zach Snyder marathon]

                1. You are not of the body.

        2. That’s nice, but apply the just-war criteria (all of which must exist before a rebellion is justified, and we’re talking rebellion here) –

          -just cause – assume for the moment there’s just cause for a rebellion

          -alternative peaceful means – the media, the courts, the Internet, etc. These peaceful avenues haven’t begun to be exhausted

          -proportionate response – unless the government is collaborating with CVS, then the attacks on CVS stores, etc., strikes me as disproportionate. And it seems that launching an open-ended rebellion will let loose the opportunists and hangers on who exploit civil disturbance to loot and destroy

          1. And there’s one peaceful option I haven’t mentioned – the ballot – won after years of often-deadly struggle – especially from the point of view of black people. A valuable tool and a precious heritage not to be lightly cast aside in favor of mayhem and destruction.

          2. 1. Just cause – sadly that is very much in the eye of the beholder.

            2. Alternative peaceful means – I don’t believe you have to exhaust *all* peaceful means before you can engage in ‘just war’. Especially if we might be talking about continuing this crap for another generation. Why should my (non-existant) kids have to suffer what I’ve suffered just so my oppressors aren’t too inconvenienced.

            3. Proportionate response – I’m down with this. As I said, burning your neighbor’s store down doesn’t help you one little bit. Really not only does it not help, it makes people not take you seriously. They *laugh* at you when you do this sort of shit. As I said – TP a police precinct of something.

            4. Ballot box – that only helps when your district hasn’t been gerrymandered to hell and back, when the politician you elect actually has some say in how the police operate (rather than him or his predecessor having ceded all control to the head cop and the union). Without that you can vote till you’re blue in the face and it will effect nothing.

            If the ballot box don’t work, open up the ammo box.

            1. Agree to disagree on those, but there’s also “reasonable probability of success.”

              In this case, looking at the example of 1968, scary public disorder leads to the election of politicians who promise to “support the police.”

              When that happened the last time, Nixon brought us no-knock raids.

              The closest they’ll get to success is expanded police powers but with SJW compliance officers to balance out arrests between black and white, plus more “community leaders” getting bribes, er, “community block grants” to keep the peace – that is.

        3. Up in arms =/= riot.

          Sorry, but so long as rioting involves assaults on regular people, destruction and theft of private property, its not justified, ever.

          1. Flipping over cop cars and burning down city hall =/= ‘up in arms’ – that’s a riot.

        4. This in nonsense. We do not want the police walking on eggshells during every confrontation, worried about being ‘perfect’ lest the utterly irrational public destroy their lives and livelihood.
          Yes, there needs to be accountability. Yes we need to correct the blue wall. Yes we need to reduce the militarization of law enforcement. But rioting over every perceived misdeed is an absurd and counterproductive proposition.

          I want law enforcement to assess situations with balance and only shoot when necessary. But, I also want law enforcement to not hesitate when lethal force is necessary. If some crack head is waving a weapon around in public with my family in sight, I want him put down hard. If we don’t want law enforcement to be doing that, then loosen the carry laws further and I’ll do it myself.

    2. There was no video in Ferguson.

      1. Of the shooting.

      2. There should have been. The cop should have turned on his dashcam. Turned on his audio recorder. Ferguson PD should have sprung for lapel cams out of the money they were extorting from the local populace.

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  13. If the shooting was unjustified, isn’t that a personnel matter? Certainly Reason doesn’t think HR departments should be handing to the press confidential employee files willy-nilly.

    1. Why are these file confidential? If I’m investigated for a crime every part of the investigatory record, including any past crimes, is a public document.

      Public employees shouldn’t have confidential personnel files?

      1. “If I’m investigated for a crime every part of the investigatory record, including any past crimes, is a public document.”

        that most certainly is not true during an active investigation.

    2. If the shooting was unjustified, isn’t that a personnel matter?

      Nope. Its a criminal matter.

      Which raises a different set of issues about what should be released, when and how.

  14. Even though the City of Charlotte purchased body cameras and trained all police to use them and wear them, the officer who shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott Tuesday was not wearing one. The officer was in plainclothes, but several other officers on the scene were wearing body cameras and officials have or will be looking over the footage.

    Why was a plainclothes cop serving a warrant to someone so dangerous it required that many cops in the first place?

    1. I’m about done with letting cops wear plain clothes on the job. The rule should be:

      (a) You cannot wear your uniform unless you are on the clock.
      (b) You must wear your uniform if you are on the clock.

      Its an “everything not prohibited is mandatory” rule, so they should be cool with it.

      1. And traffic enforcement can never be done in an unmarked car or un-uniformed cop.

        1. Well fuck, how will they be able to maintain traffic enforcement revenue like that?

      2. Isn’t the purpose of plain clothes almost exclusively for sting operations which are usually entrapment and usually related to victimless crimes.

        1. That’s undercover, I think, which is a different thing from plainclothes. A lot of detectives and other cops who aren’t patrolling or walking a beat don’t routinely wear uniforms. At least that’s what TV tells me.

          And I think that’s fine for the most part. But if you are going into a potentially violent situation where it is important that everyone know who is a cop and who isn’t, you should probably have something that obviously identifies you as a cop.

          1. Ah, thanks for the undercover clarification

        2. There are legit uses. In college I worked at a venue that routinely hosted large dance/cheer-leading events and the like, and the cops would send plainclothes guys over to be pervo-patrols. They always ended up looking like the biggest creepers in the room, but we all appreciated the effort.

          1. IME, everyone *seeing* the uniform will stop that stuff from happening in the first place – which is more important than one of the detectives nabbing an attempted perv.

            Its the logic for having security guards – most of the shit that you need a guard for will be prevented from going down just by the visible presence of the guard.

          2. Nothing you posted there thom strikes me as a legit use,

      3. He was “Differently Uniformed.”

      4. I’m cool with letting investigators go plainclothes – but ‘plainclothes’ is not ‘undercover’. Put on your cheap suit and hook the camera up to the lapel.

        But that’s for *investigators*. No unmarked cars scoping out traffic for tickets or general patrol. Its one thing if a detective sees a crime in progress and acts in his plainclothes and unmarked – its a whole different thing to be on patrol like that.

    2. I think we can all agree that an organization’s dress code is an internal matter.

      1. Not when its a government agency. If you wanna work for me then I get some say in how you dress.

        http://tinyurl.com/jb4nkzc

  15. Today, Charlotte’s chief of police said they have no intention of releasing video footage of the shooting “to the masses,”

    Note Charlotte’s chief of police: Referring to the citizenry as “the masses” is one of the quickest ways to make me despise you. There’s few phrases more obnoxious IMO than that. It just drips with smug condescension. Die in a fire, fuckwad.

  16. The police desire for secrecy brings to mind ghe old siloboth “The guilty fleeth (or hide the video) when no man persuith. What happened to TRANSPARENT GOVERNMENT in North Carolina?

    Be aware the Police Chief Associations are trying to get similar restrictions on public access enacted in many states, even in ever-Blue Minnesota. The Democrats are no more public spirited on this issue than the Republicans.

  17. When video footage is clearly in favor of the cops they tend to release it quickly. When they hold back it tends to be the opposite. Just an observation. Cops fucked up.

  18. Pigs are evil.

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