Just after the announcement that Dallas will join many other cities in the country in making police reforms, Police Chief U. Renee Hall announced a new policy for the release of police videos for critical incidents. These deemed critical incidents include police shootings, assaults, and other incidents resulting in the use of force where the incident proved fatal or resulted in serious injury.
What Are the Requirements of the New Policy?
Videos of in-custody deaths, police shootings, and critical incidence resulting in personal injury have always been more difficult to obtain through the open records law in place in the state of Texas. The release is often delayed due to the videos being considered evidence in ongoing investigation a blanket statement given for almost any video release request. The new policy is expected to change that as the chief of police has stated that videos in these incidences will need to be released within three days.
Will Video Footage Be Released Under the New Policy?
The policy did lack clarity on how videos that, are part of a criminal investigation, will be affected. Even with the new policy in place, the chief still has discretion on the public release of such videos and it was stated that the policy would not waive the rights of the department to withhold videos that are deemed investigative materials, which is the policy of all evidence in an ongoing criminal investigation. The chief also stated that the relatives of the deceased or the severely injured party themselves will be able to review footage before release.
What Prompted the Need for a New Policy?
Previously, when the department had video footage involving the death of persons in custody or the use of force on an individual were released on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the police department. In some cases, it took years for certain footage to be released. The move may have been prompted by the mounting criticism that the Dallas police department was facing for their use of less-lethal ammunition used on protestors. It follows on the heels of policies implemented after the incident such as bans on air restricting holds and the duty to intervene when force is no longer needed or applied inappropriately.
Is the New Policy Likely to Go into Effect?
Attorneys for the Dallas Police Association has stated that the new policy is not only misguided but also in direct violation of state law. They also state that by releasing videos prematurely they could jeopardize both the safety and rights of the police officers involved and even crime victims. While the attorneys say they welcome the input, the policy was created without looking at the possible implications it could bring. The vagueness on the policy in regards to criminal investigation and the lack of support from one of the strongest police unions in the city could spell disaster for the implementation and execution of the proposed policy,