Squad car video of the Philando Castile incident is in the hands of state investigators, but they have refused to release it to the public.
Jill Oliveira, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), on Friday called the video “investigative data” and therefore not public until the inquiry is complete.
The Star Tribune requested the video under Minnesota’s Data Practices Act, which states that certain data about a police response or incident remain public, even if part of an active investigation.
Stacie Christensen, director of a Minnesota agency that interprets the state’s public records law, said the BCA “may be right” in its decision. When public and nonpublic data that are part of an active investigation are so inextricably intertwined that a government agency can’t redact the nonpublic portions, the entire document can be withheld, Christensen said. She cited a 1993 decision by the Court of Appeals.
Not everyone agrees.
“How does she know it’s inextricably intertwined?” said Don Gemberling, spokesman for the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information.
Gemberling, a retired lawyer who helped draft the law enforcement section of Minnesota’s public records law, said the video should be made public.
“I think what the statue is saying is that when these things happen, certain basic elements of data about the situation are always public,” Gemberling said. That’s true whether it’s a document or a video, he said.
Gemberling acknowledged that an agency is “on pretty safe ground to withhold the video” if it provides the information in another form, such as a copy of the police incident report.
As of Friday evening, the city still had not provided an incident report. St. Anthony City Attorney Jay Lindgren said the city plans to release basic information about the police response, as well as some personnel data.
“Given the volume of requests coming in, we cannot provide you with an estimate of when this process will be completed,” Lindgren told the Star Tribune via e-mail Friday.