ACLU talks transparency, accountability for body cameras after a - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

ACLU talks transparency, accountability for body cameras after alleged LPD brutality

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The report detailed a lack of uniformity across state agencies and policies that lack basic privacy safeguards and bare-minimum accountability provisions. (Photo source: ACLU of Mississippi) The report detailed a lack of uniformity across state agencies and policies that lack basic privacy safeguards and bare-minimum accountability provisions. (Photo source: ACLU of Mississippi)
LAUREL, MS (WDAM) -

The Laurel Police Department announced the termination of two of its officers Monday following an internal investigation into alleged police brutality.

2 MS officers fired amid claims of police brutality

In the press conference, LPD Captain Tommy Cox and Laurel Mayor Johnny Magee addressed the allegations made by 36-year-old James Barnett, who said officers repeatedly kicked him in the face following a chase. 

While many on social media asked if officers had body cameras and commented about seeing the footage, Cox said the footage would not be released at this time because of the ongoing investigation.

In January, the ACLU of Mississippi released a detailed analysis of 65 state law enforcement agencies' use of body-worn cameras. The report, "Striking the Right Balance," detailed a lack of uniformity across state agencies and policies that lack basic privacy safeguards and bare-minimum accountability provisions. 

"What we found was there was a lack of uniformity," said Jennifer Riley Collins, the Executive Director for the ACLU of Mississippi.

The Laurel Police Department was one of those 65 departments included in the report. WDAM spoke to Collins Monday about the alleged police brutality case.  

Reporter:  "Is it really enhancing transparency if the public's not getting a look at any of that footage?"

Collins:  "Well actually, No. That's why we are advocating, continue to advocate and have advocated for body cam policies that allow for public disclosure on videos of public concern, and when you have law enforcement officers acting in an unprofessional matter, that is clearly a matter of public concern."

With public information, law enforcement agencies do not have to release some information, like body or dash camera video, due to ongoing investigations.  Collins said that is constantly referred to in agencies across the state.   

"What we would want the Laurel Police Department to do and law enforcement agencies across the state is not hide behind this 'ongoing investigation' exception, but in due diligence release the footage to the community, but at a minimum," said Collins. 

WDAM spoke with Laurel Captain Tommy Cox about the department's policy back in January when the report was released. 

 "It's great back up, in this day and age, whether we like it or not,everyone wants video," said Cox. "It's hard to refute something when you're on camera."

According to the 'Patrol Vehicle/Body Camera' policy for the Laurel Police Department, provided through the ACLU report, all officers on duty are to have cameras activated when responding to incident. 

WDAM asked Cox how many officers had the cameras recording, but that information was not released. 

"We believe that it is imperative that body cams be used for mode accountability and law enforcement officers use the body cam mechanisms in a way that ensures accountability and transparency," said Collins.

The ACLU provided a model policy in the report for balancing police accountability and privacy protection. 

You can view the full report below or view the specific policies of agencies reviewed in the report here.

Copyright WDAM 2018. All rights reserved.

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