Washington, DC Police union to block broadcast of body camera footage

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Washington, DC Police Union said Monday it had asked a court to block the mandatory release of body camera images and the names of officers involved in the shootings.

FILE PHOTO: A Washington DC Metropolitan Police officer walks past an umbrella reading: “Defund Police” on the steps of a city government building, during events marking Juneteenth that commemorates the end of the slavery in Texas, two years after the release of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation of Slaves elsewhere in the United States, amid nationwide protests against racial inequality, near the White House in Washington, DC, United States, on June 19, 2020. REUTERS / Tom Brenner / File Photo

The Federal District passed a police reform bill in July after weeks of protests in the nation’s capital and across the world against systemic racism and police brutality, sparked by the murder of African American George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis.

Floyd’s death, along with other high-profile incidents of police brutality, have led three dozen states to introduce initiatives to change or study the police, according to here at the National Conference of State Legislative Assemblies.

Washington’s emergency law requires the Metropolitan Police Department to publish the names of officers and body camera images within five days of a shooting involving an officer or the use of serious force, among other measures.

Recordings of previous incidents, dating back to the start of the body camera program in October 2014, were due to be released by August 15. The police union argued in its court file, filed on August 7, that disclosure of the recordings could damage the officers’ reputation.

“The dissemination of body camera footage and officers’ names will unfairly defame and permanently tarnish the reputation and good standing of any officer who will subsequently be cleared of misconduct relating to the use of force,” the union said. in a press release.

National data on police discipline is limited. A Reuters investigation here found that many union police contracts require disciplinary files to remain confidential or erased and make it difficult for citizens to lodge complaints.

Experts have said body-worn cameras or images of spectators may increase the likelihood of police misconduct attention or discipline. [L1N2DO0YI]

On July 31, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser released footage related to the murders in three deaths involving officers.

The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The district attorney general’s office declined to comment.

Arthur Spitzer, senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, said the organization agreed with the union that there was a right to privacy, but said it didn’t matter. did not apply to shots involving officers. He noted that some of the issues the union has raised with the law are already being addressed with some checks.

“We do not believe that the identity of a law enforcement officer who engages in official conduct is a matter of sensitive personal information,” Spitzer said.

The union’s latest move follows a separate lawsuit it filed, which argued that the part of the reform law that denied it the right to negotiate with management over member discipline was unconstitutional.

Report by Makini Brice; Editing by Heather Timmons and Dan Grebler

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