An Indiana House government committee voted unanimously to allow police departments to withhold video from police body cameras. Unanimously. These videotapes have resulted in arguably the single most effective deterrent of police abuse in the history of this country. However, Rep. Kevin Mahan (left) (R., Hartford City) wants to leave the release of the evidence at the discretion of the very department that often faces the greatest criticism and costs over such evidence.
The move is reminiscent of our earlier discussion of the actions of Dallas Police Chief David Brown revealed a new policy that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. The policy came after a scandal where a surveillance video showed one of Brown’s officers shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason. The video contradicted the officer’s testimony and undermined the charge against the victim. Brown’s solution was not greater disciplining and monitoring of officers but to impose a delay to allow officers to craft their statements.
The Indiana bill places the burden on those seeking video to prove that its release is in the public interest and doesn’t create risk of harm or prejudice in ongoing court cases. Citizens would have to go to court to get access to the videotapes.
According to his website, Mahan “served as a patrolman for the Hartford City Police Department, and then was appointed Blackford County Chief Deputy. After serving eight years as Chief Deputy, he was elected as the Blackford County Sheriff, which he served for three years.”