State Watch

DC police union calls on court to block mandatory release of body cam footage

The Washington, D.C., police union is calling on a court to block part of an emergency police reform measure passed by the city earlier this year that requires the public release of body camera footage and the names of officers involved in fatal or serious use-of-force incidents.

According to The Washington Post, the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) filed the suit in the D.C. Superior Court on Monday. In the filing, the union reportedly calls for an emergency court injunction against the city to block the release of footage and names. 

The filing comes after the D.C. Council passed an emergency measure in June that included, among other requirements, mandates for the release of body-worn camera footage after incidents involving officer-involved death or serious use of force incidents within in five days, in addition to the names of the officers responsible. 

The measure was passed just weeks after the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in late May after a white Minneapolis police officer was seen kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest, and came amid nationwide protests against police brutality and racism sparked by his death.

In a statement to the paper on Monday, Gregg Pemberton, chairman of the union, said the law “intentionally endangers every police officer on this department.”

“The DC Police Union’s only recourse at this juncture was to challenge the law in Superior Court. We believe the Court will agree with our arguments and grant the injunction,” he continued. 

However, the councilman behind the bill, Charles Allen (D) told the paper before bill’s passage, the public “was rarely given even basic information about what happened in these serious cases – thus few independent tools for accountability exist.”

He also said he’s “at a loss as to why the FOP thinks officers’ names should be hidden when police disclose the names and likenesses of suspects daily.” 

“Surely there’s greater public interest when the government takes a life or exercises force on residents and visitors?” he added. 

Arthur Spitzer, who serves as senior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia, also addressed the issue of privacy in such cases, saying in an statement to Reuters: “We don’t think that the identity of a law enforcement officer who’s engaged in official conduct is a matter of sensitive personal information at all.” 

According to the Post, the union is hoping for a ruling within the next few days.


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