May 2018 Warning Bells article

May 2018 – Smile-You’re on Candid Camera

No one at the League thought posting videos of uses of force on the internet was a good idea. No one at the Police Commis­sion cared. It was going to happen. Period. End of story. The League was allowed to meet with the Commission and express our concerns. Some were listened to, some were not. On March 20, 2018, the Com­mission approved the policy, and some of your videos will be posted on the inter-net. Here is a review of what the policy dictates. Since I have already stated my opinions on this in the November 2017 and January 2018 Warning Bells articles, I will refrain from restating them and focus on telling you what the policy is.

Why?

The stated reason is to “increase trans­parency with respect to the operations of the LAPD and in doing so, foster greater public trust.” “The people of Los Ange­les have an undeniable interest in being informed … about how their police department conducts its business, espe­cially where officers use lethal force ….”

When?

The video will be released to the public within 45 days of the incident. However, the Chief of Police or the Commission may determine that an earlier release is in the public interest.

What?

The relevant video that depicts actions and events leading up to, and including, the critical incident will be posted. This includes audio footage. Relevant means anything that is typically considered by the Chief, Commission or a prosecutor to determine the propriety of an officer’s conduct during the critical incident.

What else?

The video will be accompanied by additional information to provide con­text based on the evidence available at the time of release. Apparently, it will include a narration similar to a “Cops” episode. Hopefully, the “Bad boys, bad boys. What you gonna do when they come for you” soundtrack will not be included. The League will be watching closely for any illegal postings of pro­tected compelled statements.

Critical incident?

What is a critical incident? Officer-involved shootings, whether a hit or non-hit. A use of force resulting in death or serious bodily injury requiring hospital­ization (LERI). In-custody deaths. And the one that swallows all the rules and allows anything they want: “Any other police encounter where the Commission or the Chief of Police determines release of video is in the public interest.”

Types of video?

All types. Body-worn video, digital in-car video, police facility surveillance video, drone video and any video captured by third parties in the Depart­ment’s possession.

Privacy protection?

Juveniles, victims of certain crimes and privacy interests of other indi­viduals will be redacted, edited out or blurred.

Delayed release?

Safety of the involved individuals, integrity of an active investigation, confidential sources or investigative techniques and the constitutional rights of an accused may result in the delayed release of a video. However, the reasons must have a factual basis and be specific to the individual case. Also, the delay can only happen with the unanimous decision of the Chief and the Commis­sion’s two designated liaisons for video release. Not unanimous? The video gets released. Any delay granted must be reviewed every 14 days. If delayed more than 28 days, the matter is to be placed before the entire Commission to decide if the delay continues. As soon as the reason for the delay has been resolved, it will be released.

Notifications?

They will make a “reasonable attempt” to notify the following people 48 hours before posting the video: the officers in the video; the subject on who the force was used or next of kin; if it’s a juve­nile, the parents or legal guardian; if the subject has legal counsel, the lawyer; the Protective League; and anyone else deemed appropriate.

How long?

It will be on the Department’s desig­nated website until 12 months after the Board of Police Commissioners adjudi­cates the incident. Since adjudications typically take 11 months after the inci­dent, you can expect that the video will be on the internet for nearly two years. Actually, once on the internet, nothing ever really disappears completely.

Effective when?

The policy goes into effect 30 days after approval by the Commission. It was approved on March 20, 2018, so on April 19, 2018, it is operational.

Some advice

Since your uses of force (and anything else) may someday be accessed and viewed by everyone in the world, including your mom, your kids, and all your neighbors, think about the optics. Watch your lan­guage, don’t pick your nose and always wear a smile, no matter how abusive the suspect behaves. The public expects Reed and Malloy crossed with RoboCop, and so does the Police Commission and the Department. You disappoint them at your peril. If you don’t belong to the Legal Plan, now might be a good time to join.

Be legally careful out there.

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