Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., police did not capture key video footage of last week’s fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott because a responding officer didn’t turn on his body camera until after police had already shot the victim, a violation of department policy, the Charlotte Observer reports. Portions of video footage showed the moments immediately before and after the Sept. 20 shooting. The first half-minute of body-camera footage includes no sound. Body cameras worn by patrol officers don’t begin recording audio until officers activate them. The cameras do silently capture video for a short period before they’re activated. In last week’s shooting, the silent portion of the body cam video shows an officer next to Scott’s SUV with his gun drawn, pointing toward the front seat. It also shows the officer who is wearing the camera striking a baton against a passenger-side window.
No sound is recorded until Scott is already lying on the pavement after the shooting. Officers are supposed to activate their body cameras before interactions with citizens that involve traffic stops, suspicious vehicles, “voluntary investigative contact” and arrests. “Voluntary investigative contact” is defined as what police do when they suspect criminal activity, as they did when they approached Scott after reportedly seeing marijuana and a gun in his car. Susanna Birdsong of the American Civil Liberties Union said it’s clear that the officer wearing the body camera violated policy by not activating the device sooner. “A body camera policy is not worth the paper it’s written on if officers aren’t abiding by the standards and protocols we expect them to be using,” Birdsong said. Had the officer activated the camera earlier, she said, it might have provided more insight into whether police had made efforts to deescalate the situation and why they felt a need to use deadly force.