Yielding to political pressure, the Minneapolis Police Department has considered releasing video relevant to an ongoing investigation. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Police Chief Janeé Harteau recently said she’ll consider disclosing videos in the future if they won’t compromise an investigation. Her department’s fatal shooting of Jamar Clark last November led to major protests and demands for footage from that night.
“People tend to create a narrative they want to create, and the sooner we can release the videos along with the facts, the better,” said Harteau, who spoke generally and not about the Clark case because it remains under investigation.
Authorities need to take that bold step to maintain the community’s trust, said former Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, who, during his tenure, released three videos before investigations were complete.
“If you have a city that’s starting to burn down and you have something you can show them, get it out,” Dolan said. “I think that’s part of public service.”
Really? The proper response to a city that’s starting to burn down, which is to say a city with criminals who are seeking to burn it down, is to release a video? How about arresting the criminals? That seems a bit more appropriate.
At the height of an “occupation” of the MPD Fourth Precinct Building by Black Lives Matter, I sat in on a local podcast with activists from across the political spectrum to discuss the drama. At the time, activists sympathetic to Black Lives Matter were upset with police union head Bob Kroll for going public with his opinions regarding the Clark case. Kroll had made claims regarding what had happened on the night of Clark’s death, claims which critics argued might taint the ongoing investigation. If witnesses heard what Kroll said before being interviewed, there would be no way to know whether their recollection was legitimate or influenced by Kroll.
Video relevant to the investigation should be withheld from the public for the same reason. If witnesses see the video before being interviewed by investigators, there will be no way to know whether their recollection has been influenced by the video. The underlying concern is due process, which ought to trump political considerations. Are we seriously going to deprive parties affected by the investigation of due process in order to combat narratives and “maintain the community’s trust”?
People can craft whatever narratives they want. That should have no impact whatsoever on the procedure utilized in an investigation. Any suggestion to the contrary elevates politics above individual rights and the rule of law. Unfortunately, such skewed priorities seem to be manifesting in Minneapolis.