As outlined in our official statement earlier this week, the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police recognizes the impact of a tragedy like the one suffered throughout the Minneapolis community, as well as within the Minneapolis Police Department, as a result of the recent officer-involved shooting.
It is entirely reasonable and appropriate for the community to seek transparency in an investigation to establish the facts that led to this tragic confrontation.
Incidents such as these are complex, and they often involve rapidly changing circumstances, many witnesses, forensic evidence and even video recordings. There are often many pieces of information to be assembled, some fitting together more easily than others, before a complete and accurate picture of the incident can be produced.
Many members of the public, including Mayor Jacob Frey and members of the Minneapolis City Council, have been strong advocates for the release of video captured during this incident from the involved officers’ body-worn cameras. Minnesota statute provides some guidance in cases like this. Specifically, it allows a law enforcement agency to determine when evidence is made public. Mayor Frey also asserts that he is the ultimate commanding presence of the Minneapolis Police Department.
The Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police recognizes the evidentiary value of body-worn cameras and supports their use. These devices have proved to be a valuable tool to collect and preserve evidence in criminal investigations. However, it is important to realize the limitations of these devices.
In rapidly unfolding encounters, the camera will record only one perspective, through a specific field of vision. The cameras do not record all the details and observations an officer notes throughout an often-tense decisionmaking process.
Additionally, videos captured on these cameras will not always provide contextual clues and indications as perceived by those intimately involved in these cases. In some instances, the cameras may not accurately or wholly represent what has transpired because of these limitations.
Releasing this video before the investigation is complete will not serve the goal of transparency any more than waiting.
Keeping these factors in mind, the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police encourages Mayor Frey and the Minneapolis City Council to exercise caution and discretion before releasing the video. Additionally, we call upon the community to exercise patience and thoughtfulness as they view this video.
Both the community and these officers deserve a thorough, impartial and, ultimately, transparent investigation into this incident. They aren’t just police officers. They are United States citizens with the same due process rights as every citizen.
Matthew Hagen is president of the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police.