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What Are The Rules For Making Police Footage Public?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Within hours of Saturday's deadly police shooting, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told reporters that the body cameras on the two officers involved were on and activated.

On Tuesday, the mayor said he would release the body camera footage after investigators complete interviews with key witnesses and the family of Thurman Blevins gives consent.

But what are the rules for making police footage public? What does the law say?

According to MN Statute 13.82, Subd. 7, most investigative data are "confidential or protected nonpublic while the investigation in active."

In the past, law enforcement agencies have argued that to release data before the investigation is complete could compromise the investigation.

But that same Minnesota law also says there are circumstances where law enforcement could release the data.

According to MN Statute 13.82, Subd. 15, that could happen "if the agency determines that the access will aid the law enforcement process, promote public safety, or dispel widespread rumor or unrest."

State law also allows anyone to bring the issue to court.

"You could sue, but the issue then becomes does the public interest outweigh other considerations," says Jane Kirtley, a professor of media law at the University of Minnesota. "If law enforcement says this will undermine their investigation, then usually the courts will defer to that."

There are cases where video has been released before the investigation is complete.

In 2015, a judge ruled dashcam video of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald be made public because he said the City of Chicago could not prove it would hurt their investigation.

In April of 2018, the police chief in Danville, Virginia, released bodycam video of a police shooting four days after it happened.

Danville Chief Scott Booth said at the time: "We had some outside interests here that were trying to create a narrative of the situation that I don't believe was accurate."

In 2015, Gov. Mark Dayton watched the video of Minneapolis officer-involved shooting of Jamar Clark. He said he was allowed because the BCA answers to him as chief executive of the state.

Kirtley says 34 other states have similar laws regarding release of investigative data, but the laws vary widely.


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