Above Photo: AP
Local governments and police departments are known to be worse than shady about making records of police violence public, but releasing an overwhelming amount of information all at once can also be an obfuscating tactic.
According to a memo obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority plans to release recordings that document about 100 incidents of police violence, including shootings and use of stun guns. The disclosure is “tentatively scheduled” for June 2 and all of the records are connected to ongoing IPRA investigations.
In February, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel embraced the recommendation of his Task Force on Police Accountability to release recordings of shootings and injuries sustained in police custody within 60 days of the incident, but this mass revelation suggests there’s been a buildup of footage. The task force was ostensibly created to soothe public outrage after footage was released in November of officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald sixteen times. The video was released more than a year after the incident, and inspired calls for the mayor’s resignation.
On Friday, the mayor’s office released this statement on the impending unveiling of police records:
“Consistent with the Task Force on Police Accountability’s recommendations, Mayor Emanuel announced in February that Chicago is leading the nation in adopting a written policy regarding the release of videos and other evidence in police-involved shootings. Over the past few months, multiple city agencies have been working together to prepare for this release, which includes thousands of police reports, audio recordings, and videos – materials that require careful organization and proper care. Promoting transparency is driving this initiative, and now all members of the public will now have an opportunity to review these materials through a user-friendly interface.”
But the authors of the Sun-Times article, Sam Charles and Fran Spielman, suggest the delay serves the mayor’s agenda better than it does the public:
By releasing so many videos all at once, the mayor’s office makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the news media to view them all, let alone focus on the most egregious videos.
Emanuel can also claim to be “open and transparent” while managing to take the political hit in one fell swoop. It’s kind of like removing a Band-Aid. Sure, you feel the pain. But you get rid of it all at once.