ACLU applauds judge’s decision to release video footage of killing of Nehad–UPDATED
***UPDATE: ACLU Statement on DA Dumanis’s Creation of a “Protocol” for How/When to Release Police Body Camera Video***
The following statement can be attributed to our legal director, David Loy:
The purpose of access to public records is to hold government accountable to the community. Given the extraordinary and deadly powers vested in law enforcement, that principle applies especially to police videos.
It is therefore essential that community members participate in a transparent process to establish the protocol for disclosure of body-camera videos. To open that process is a first step toward building community trust in law enforcement, which is undermined by secrecy and exclusion.
***END OF UPDATE***
SAN DIEGO – [Original story: “ACLU Applauds Judge’s Decision to Release Video Footage of Killing of Nehad, December 17, 2015]
The following statement can be attributed to our legal director, David Loy.
The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties applaud Judge Hayes’ decision to let the public see video footage of the killing of Fridoon Rawshan Nehad in May of this year. The officer who shot him inexplicably failed to turn on his body camera, in violation of San Diego Police Department policy, but the incident was caught on the security camera of a nearby business. The San Diego City Attorney’s office, which is defending a lawsuit from Nehad’s family, fought to keep the video secret, but Judge Hayes found that the City showed no good reason to prevent the public from watching it.
California law and the SDPD’s own policies authorized Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman to release the footage without a court order, but she refused, as did District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who recently cleared the officer of any wrongdoing in the shooting, saying he acted reasonably because he thought the suspect was holding a knife (he wasn’t; it was a pen).
The public’s interest in understanding why and how an officer killed an unarmed man strongly outweighs the SDPD’s preference to keep the video secret. A spate of videos, including the recently disclosed recording of Laquan McDonald’s killing in Chicago, have raised substantial questions about the legality of police shootings and the credibility of official justifications for killing people. There will never be public trust in the department or other San Diego institutions, if the government continues to choose secrecy over transparency.
Today’s decision by Judge Hayes is an important victory for government transparency, and for the constitutional principle of a free press.”