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Can Cameras Restore Confidence in Police?

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    NBC 6 investigator Tony Pipitone has the story as the calls for police cameras grow, can they restore public trust in police if the footage isn't publicly available? (Published Monday, Dec. 22, 2014)

    When police departments in Florida put body cameras on officers, will it restore public confidence in police if the public is not allowed to see all the video?

    Team 6 Investigators showed you video you were never meant to view during an investigation into the botched Redland sting. Miami-Dade Police shot and killed three home invasion suspects and a confidential informant who had led the men to a trap.

    State law prohibits the release of video of actual killings, but the State Attorney’s office gave Team 6 Investigators the video without redacting the killings. A special prosecutor conducted an investigation of that release and concluded it was likely accidental. The prosecutor declined to file charges, finding no evidence to suggest the oversight was intentional.

    In the video NBC 6 obtained, the confidential informant is seen with his hands up. About a minute later, police shot him. The family’s attorney, Andrew Hall, looks at the video and calls it “murder.’ When asked how he can support that allegation, he responded, “We’ve seen the film.”

    The video also shows the ringleader. He is unarmed, either having tossed or dropped his gun earlier, and curled in a ball under a tree. Police find him and pump 52 bullets into him. One officer said he thought the suspect was going for something in his waistband and was in fear.

    Without the State Attorney’s, “mistake,’ the public would not have seen that video. The same state law that would keep you from seeing it would also apply to video caught on body cameras worn by police officers. The portions of the video depicting killings would be banned from public release.

    First Amendment attorney, Tom Julin, believes all video should be available.

    “It shows you how law enforcement officers are executing their responsibilities,” Julin told Team 6 Investigators.

    As for the video showing police shooting the suspect under the tree, Julin said, “That’s an excellent illustration of exactly the type of law enforcement record that should be made public”, he said.
    Police union president, Tony Rivera, said the body cams, which he refers to as “trinkets,” are not needed and points to the fact that not a single cop involved in a shooting has been criminally charged in twenty-five years in the state.

    “I would say it’s just that the shootings are all justified”, Rivera said, “Just because we’ve had a number of years without any incident that we may consider “juicy”, I don’t look at it as a negative. I look at it as a positive.”

    Prosecutors who reviewed the case told Team 6 Investigators they did not believe all of the officers’ testimony, including a statement that the informant never identified himself to police before they shot him.

    They also found only one of the killings, that of a suspect who was holding a gun, was justified. Still, they said they found insufficient evidence to bring any criminal charges because the officers said they feared for their lives when they opened fire, and nothing in the video disproves that.

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