San Diego Rolls Out Policy on Cop-Shooting Footage

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — San Diego County law enforcement authorities announced the first region-wide policy in California for releasing video footage of police shootings caught on camera.
     District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said the policy makes San Diego County the first county in the state and possibly the nation to adopt a single region-wide standard for if and when videos of police shootings will be released.
     The policy comes after Dumanis and San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman initially dug in their heels on releasing footage caught on body-worn cameras police officers were outfitted with over the past few years. After mounting public pressure in San Diego and across the nation for law enforcement officials to be more transparent when investigating incidents where residents have been shot by officers, San Diego officials held a series of community conversations earlier this summer to gather community input before enacting the region-wide policy.
     Dumanis said body-camera footage and videos submitted to police by witnesses will not be made publicly available until her office has completed a review. She also said only video clips or sections of video relevant to the investigation by her office would be made available, meaning the criticized practice of enhancing and cutting-and-pasting shooting videos will likely continue.
     The videos will be released at press conferences held by the DA’s office. The faces of officers, witnesses and those shot will be blurred out of respect for their privacy, Dumanis said.
     If criminal charges are filed in connection to shooting incidents caught on camera, the videos will not be released until court proceedings have started, Dumanis said.
     Dumanis and Zimmerman both warned the public to take police shooting videos with a grain of salt, with both officials reminding residents that videos are only one piece of evidence.
     “We all recognize the need for transparency and the value that video evidence can provide during an officer-involved shooting,” Zimmerman said at an Aug. 4 press conference announcing the new policy.
     “However, we all need to keep in mind that video evidence is just a piece of evidence in the overall investigation and by itself may not provide the conclusive information that we are all looking for.”
     Dumanis agreed, pointing out that providing context for shooting videos is “an important element” in responsibly releasing videos of police shootings. She said the policy was “crafted to balance competing interests” and to protect the legal rights of all those involved in police shootings.
     “Presented out of context, a video clip can lead to incorrect and sometimes inflammatory narratives about shootings,” Dumanis said. “With context, video evidence can aid the public in understanding why and how an officer-involved shooting occurred.”
     The agreement was negotiated by the San Diego County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association.

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