CHARLOTTE – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina joins those calling on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) to publicly release all body and dash camera footage, as well as audio dispatch recordings, of the events surrounding the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a 43-year-old man with a traumatic brain injury, who, according to the Guardian’s database The Counted, was the 194th Black person killed by U.S. police this year.
On Saturday, the department released portions of body and dash camera footage showing the moments immediately before and after police shot and killed Mr. Scott. But the department has not released all the video footage of the moments leading up to and following the encounter, leaving many questions still unanswered.
Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, released the following statement:
“The videos released this weekend raise a host of questions about why police shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, and whether, in doing so, the officers involved violated state or federal law, in addition to failing to follow the department’s own rules regarding the use of deadly force, de-escalation, when to wear and activate body cameras, and more.
“In the interest of full transparency, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police must stop releasing information to the public on a piecemeal basis and disclose all remaining body and dash camera footage, as well as audio of dispatch recordings, of the moments before and after Mr. Scott was killed. The public and Mr. Scott’s family deserve to see and hear all available information about whether something was in his hand and why a man who was suspected of no crime, other than the newly disclosed accusation that he possessed a minor amount of marijuana, is now dead.”
On the use of force:
“Although we don’t yet have statistics on the number of people with disabilities killed by U.S. police, Mr. Scott certainly was not the first. The videos we have seen so far of his last moments raise serious questions about why officers were so quick to use deadly force rather than any number of other tactics that could have de-escalated their encounter with a man who lived with a mental disability. In several videos, Mr. Scott’s wife can be heard telling officers that Mr. Scott has a ‘T.B.I.’ (traumatic brain injury) and had just taken his medicine.
“In 2015, the Charlotte City Council unanimously passed a civil liberties resolution that included directives for how officers should interact with members of the public, including those with disabilities, and how to de-escalate potentially violent situations. The available information suggests that the officers who encountered Mr. Scott did not abide by those directives, and calls into question whether the Charlotte Police Department has adequately trained any of its officers to respond effectively to such situations.”
On officer use of body cameras:
“We also have questions about why the officer who killed Mr. Scott was not wearing a body camera, as CMPD’s own policy states that ‘recordings shall occur prior to or in anticipation of an arrest’ and also apply to ‘suspicious vehicles or persons.’
“Missing audio at the beginning of the video from the officer who was wearing a body camera indicates that the officer in question did not turn on his camera when the department’s policy required him to do so. Because officers were engaging a person who they claimed was suspicious, and reportedly even left the scene temporarily to outfit themselves with additional gear, body cameras should have been turned on earlier so there would be full audio and visual accounts of what happened.
“Last year, Chief Putney announced plans to phase out dash cameras, citing their cost and the implementation of officer worn body cameras. The fact that a dash camera – and not a body camera – seems to have captured the clearest vantage of Mr. Scott’s shooting shows that dash cameras remain vitally important and the department must retain them.
“CMPD must release whatever audio and video footage remains of the shooting of Mr. Scott now. The department must not simply run out the clock on the new law that will block the public from seeing body camera footage without a court order. CMPD should do the right thing and release all the footage.”
As of October 1, a new North Carolina law, HB 972, will prevent law enforcement agencies from releasing body camera footage in the public interest without a court order. Under the law, which the ACLU has opposed, people captured on video by body cameras would also be barred from having a copy of the footage unless they successfully obtained a court order.