Why Access Matters

I saw this piece on the Huffington Post yesterday.  Pretty interesting reading.  It’s a hypothetical news report of the Walter Scott shooting that we’d likely be reading were it not for the footage that captured the incident.  Mr. Scott is the South Carolina man who was shot eight times in the back by a North Charleston, South Carolina police officer last Saturday. 

And the thing is, it’s not entirely fiction.   Here’s a description of how the piece was written:

This article relies entirely on local news reports, which sourced their version of events to information from police, the attorney for the officer, “witnesses” and police statements. Many of those claims turned out to be lies. Slager has been charged with murder. Whenever possible, this article pulls verbatim from local news reports.

This incident illustrates why the public must have access to things like body camera and dash cam video recorded by police.  It seems like common sense.  But apparently, not everyone sees it that way.  I’m working on a case right now in the Ohio Supreme Court where the Ohio Highway Patrol is refusing to turn over dash cam video of a high speed chase on I-71.  The Patrol is taking the now common approach of many law enforcement units – calling the dash cam “confidential investigatory material” and stonewalling.  Here’s hoping the Ohio Supreme Court puts an end to this foolishness.

Of course, dash cam video is not so confidential that it stops the Patrol from maintaining its own YouTube channel, and highlighting the dash cam video it wants the public to see. But hey, where’s it say cops have to be consistent?