Saturday, April 25, 2015

Transparency In Policing Is Just A Slogan

It's been two weeks since two Indianapolis police officers shot and killed an Indianapolis man, Mack Long, who fled his vehicle on foot after being subjected to a traffic stop. An IMPD spokesman initially told the public the two officers who pursued and then shot and killed Long sustained minor injuries after being grazed by a bullet fired from Long's gun. At a press conference 24 hours later, police admitted Long had fired no shots from a handgun he was carrying at his side, and that only one of the officers had suffered very minor injuries during a supposed scuffle with Long. One of the police officers was wearing a body camera, while a private citizen recorded at least part of the shooting. Unlike other highly-publicized police action shootings around the country, authorities refuse to release video evidence of the shooting to the public, and the local news media doesn't seem at all interested in seeing it, even after learning IMPD initially misstated key facts regarding the shooting.

Yesterday, Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry appeared on WTLC-AM's "Afternoons With Amos." The show's host, Amos Brown, asked Curry about the reason the video evidence was not being released to the media. Incredibly, Curry hid behind grand jury secrecy rules, claiming that it was against Indiana law to release the video evidence since it was evidence in a pending grand jury investigation. Curry said the videos might be released in the future after any grand jury proceedings had been concluded but not before then. Curry's claim is a complete misstatement of Indiana law. Indiana law gives law enforcement agencies discretionary authority to withhold investigative records. They may and do, however, release investigative records such as video evidence, 911 calls, police reports and other evidence all of the time when it serves their interest. The mere fact evidence will be presented at a grand jury proceeding doesn't bar its release to the public; rather, it's the testimony offered by witnesses and discussions of evidence during the grand jury proceeding that is subject to the secrecy rule.

Additionally, Brown asked Curry about whether his office responds to information requests from citizen journalists and bloggers regardless of their political affiliation or beliefs. Curry stated that his office fulfilled his 2010 campaign promise to be more open and responsive to the public and does generally respond to all inquiries. In fact, Curry's office has ignored repeated requests by Advance Indiana to respond to questions not only about the Long shooting but also the IMPD cover up of the citizen complaint Austin Joseph made in a 911 call on December 20, 2014 during which he reported observing an IMPD police car driven by Capt. Phil Burton being operated erratically at rates of speed topping 90 mph on a non-emergency run, or the death of Aaron D. Barnes in the home of Officer Gregory Slaven on April 5, 2014, whose body police sources told Advance Indiana was found in a sex bondage position wearing a chloroform mask. Perhaps Curry's office has no information to release about either of those incidents involving police officers, but there's no way of knowing that because his office won't even acknowledge receipt of the request for information. In both cases, the only reason Advance Indiana was able to provide any information to the public was because of concerns expressed by IMPD officers that proper investigations were not being conducted.

It is absolutely stunning just how little interest the traditional media in Indianapolis has in newsworthy stories involving very serious questions concerning police misconduct, particularly following the fatal alcohol collision of Officer David Bisard that cost taxpayers at least $10 million, not to to mention the loss of life. I can't imagine anywhere else in this country where the news media would display such a dismissive, disinterested attitude towards such matters. Nowadays, they seem only interested in writing press releases for the police and prosecutor. How times have changed from the days when reporters for the Indianapolis Star & News were conducting daily public battles with police and prosecutors and the newspaper's reporters were turning out blockbuster news stories of police and prosecutor corruption that won them a Pulitzer Prize.

On a final note, Advance Indiana has requested from the Marion Co. Sheriff's Department any 911 calls or police dispatch records regarding the Aaron D. Barnes death investigation. That request got routed to Samantha DeWester in the Corporation Counsel's office, who sent a letter this week denying the release of the requested records as a matter of discretion for the investigative records exception to the state's public records law, the catch-all exemption IMPD always uses to block release of any information it doesn't want the public to see. Recall that DeWester used that same exemption to deny Advance Indiana's request for the 911 call and dispatch records regarding Capt. Phil Burton, which the Sheriff's Department produced in response to the exact same request. Apparently, Sheriff John Layton has instructed his staff to forward all requests made by Advance Indiana to the Corporation Counsel's office and not respond to them as his office does for other media requests. Ask yourself: What are they hiding? Why did IMPD Chief Rick Hite announce a new policy this past week prohibiting any police officer from recording other officers or city officials? Who is he protecting and why?

UPDATE: I finally got this response from the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office today:

Dear Mr. Welsh,

The death investigation to which you refer has not been presented to our office for review. I have no further information or statement on the matter.

The video referenced below is evidence in a pending investigation. As such, it would not become public record unless or until it is entered into the court record in the course of a criminal prosecution. If the video becomes public record, it would be available from the court file.

Peg McLeish
Communications Director

Marion County Prosecutor’s Office


Anonymous said...

It would appear that there is NO transparency in the police department and they are just releasing only the information they want released and hiding behind limp rationale for withholding public information they choose not to disclose.

Shermlock Shomes said...

"It is absolutely stunning just how little interest the traditional media in Indianapolis has in newsworthy stories involving very serious questions concerning police misconduct. . ."

This is the bad news. After seeing what's happening in Baltimore could this be the good news as well?

Eric Morris said...

Yet most sheeple buy the propaganda spewed by NCIS and CSI that people carrying shiny badges are all that protect us from the jungle.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the police will do when people start rioting in the streets of downtown Indianapolis??? RFRA will be nothing in comparison when it comes to scarring the mighty convention dollar!!!!!

Anonymous said...

The corruption and incompetence of Democrat and Republican tools- whether elected, appointed, or party machine apparatchiks is a sad state of affairs that I believe is a causal factor in County residents growing inclination toward quiet civil disobedience and increasing lack of respect for "the law". If the best we can do is to be over-lorded by likes of the ignoble Rick Hite, the partisan Democrat Curry, or Samantha "Make My Third A Double" DeWester, it is no wonder to me why there is no transparency or honesty by "civic" officials.

After reading "It's A Mighty Thin Pancake" (where in only one instance of many somewhat similar crony political connections the author admits he made almost a million dollars on an insider purchase and subsequent sale of the old Indianapolis Cablevision stock and where even crook attorney David Brooks' name is mentioned) and being reminded of Dick Cady's "Deadline: Indianapolis" book where I was directed to and re-read of the deep corruption endemic to this City since at least the 1950's- I have zero respect for any of the aforementioned or most all of our Councilors (save the Honorable Christine Scales), our police force and fire department head honchos.

Anonymous said...

It has now been over a full Quarter since Captain Burton was alleged to be driving while intoxicated in a police car and the matter was handled in violation of the department procedures. Why isn't the investigation complete? What are the results? Surely in over Four Months Time a thorough investigation should have been completed!

Anonymous said...

Phil Burton is a Layton guy through and through, that is one reason Layton is protecting him. Burton was the poster child for the merger uniforms and car back in 2006.

As for Layton suddenly using CC to hide behind, that means Kevin Murray and Overholt (ie. Frost Todd Brown, Sheriff Attorneys) do not want to touch any of this with a 10-foot pole.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Layton didn't protect Burton. His office produced the 911 call and dispatch audio records Samantha DeWester refused to produce that documented the fact the incident occurred.

Anonymous said...

Attorney Samantha DeWester, the nominal Center Township GOP Chair, is a pure political hack insider who will do as she is told whenever she is told. If you don't believe me ask the guy who really runs Center Township even after his move to Hamilton County and after his success in finding 5th Congressional election votes for his wife Susan Brooks... that guy's initials are David Brooks.

Anonymous said...

The Cpt Burton investigation is over. He was cleared of all wrong doing.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:09: Did his race have everything to do with the outcome? Can you substantiate the allegation that when The Chief thought it was someone else, he ordered an immediate suspension, but when he found out it was Burton, he sent a Special Envoy out to "clear this up?"