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Austin announces new policy to release video footage of police shootings within 10 business days

Monday, July 26, 2021 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

The Austin Police Department says it will try to release video footage of incidents where police seriously injure or kill someone more quickly than in the past.

Previously, the department’s policy was to release this footage within 60 days; the new policy announced Friday shortens that to 10 business days.

“I truly believe that it’s the right thing to do. Our public deserves answers more quickly,” APD interim Chief Joseph Chacon told KUT. “That transparency is what’s going to help rebuild any trust that might have eroded over the past few years.”

Chacon acknowledged that the department had failed to make good on its previous promise to release dashboard and body camera footage of critical incidents within 60 days. (Under the department’s policy, a critical incident includes shootings where an officer is involved, a case where someone is seriously injured or killed by police, or when someone dies in police custody.)

Data analyzed by KUT found the department took an average of 99 days to release video footage from four critical incidents since April 2020. For instance, it took 94 days for police to release video footage of a police officer shooting Mike Ramos in Southeast Austin.

“That’s just not good for the public to be waiting for months on end to get some information on something that happened several months ago,” Chacon told KUT.

He said he expects police to be able to meet this shorter deadline because the department is ditching much of the production work involved in the videos. In the past, videos have included a scripted introduction by a member of the police department, along with additional context that strings together clips.

Chacon said any explanation surrounding the videos will be much shorter moving forward. He said the Office of Police Oversight will still be involved in reviewing the videos before they are released.

A spokesperson for the office said she supported the new policy change.

“The updated policy announced today is much more aligned with community expectations for the release of this footage and increased transparency,” Sara Peralta, a spokesperson for Austin’s Office of Police Oversight, wrote in an email.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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