Will CA Court Ruling Open The Floodgates To Releasing Police Video Footage?


Police dashboard camera footage that showed Gardena, Ca., officers shooting Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino was released by a federal judge yesterday after news organizations argued the public had a right to see it, reports the Associated Press. It showed Diaz-Zeferino disobeying orders to keep his hands up, but with his palms open by his waist. Judge Stephen Wilson unsealed the video so the public could see what led the city of Gardena to pay $4.7 million to settle a lawsuit with Diaz-Zeferino’s family and another man wounded in the shooting that followed a botched report of a bicycle theft in 2013.

“The fact that they spent the city’s money, presumably derived from taxes, only strengthens the public’s interest in seeing the videos,” Wilson wrote. “Moreover, defendants cannot assert a valid compelling interest in sealing the videos to cover up any wrongdoing on their part or to shield themselves from embarrassment.” Against a backdrop of intense public scrutiny of police shootings nationwide, a lawyer for The Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg argued the videos should be unsealed under a First Amendment right to access court documents. Michael Overing, a lawyer and journalism professor at the University of Southern California, said that in addition to being cited in future court arguments the ruling could help provide guidance as lawmakers grapple with those issues. “Right now video is being suppressed,” Overing said. “This is going to help open the floodgates so the public can see it … and see if actions are justified.”

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