Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: City Evades Responsibility in the White Shooting

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: City Evades Responsibility in the White Shooting

Article excerpt

Dominique White was shot and killed by Topeka police officers two and a half months ago. Since then, we've witnessed a cascade of evasions and inconsistency from law enforcement and city officials. Instead of addressing the public's concerns about the shooting immediately and directly, our leaders have hidden behind a wall of legalese and equivocation.

The city denied The Topeka Capital-Journal's open records requests for access to the body camera footage, the identities of the officers involved and other materials. Moreover, the White family's attorney says the city initially agreed to let Dominique's parents view the body camera footage, but later decided against doing so (Kansas law only requires city officials to show the footage to the court-appointed executor of White's estate).

Two weeks ago, we joined the Kansas Press Association, Kansas Association of Broadcasters and Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government in calling upon the city to release the footage of White's death. We stand by that position. While the city says the footage could "prejudice and potentially taint a jury pool" if it's released "outside of a trial setting," the same argument could be made about news coverage or the release of other pertinent facts. Moreover, the reluctance to release the video could have its own corrupting effect on potential jurors by suggesting that the city is trying to hide something.

Plenty of officers have been acquitted by juries after footage of their actions was released to the public, and our judicial system can't ensure that jurors live in some kind of cultural and political vacuum that completely rids them of preconceptions about a case. The city needs to demonstrate that the cost of releasing the footage outweighs the overriding public interest in accountability and transparency, and we still see no evidence that it has done so.

The city has also failed to facilitate appropriate public dialogue on the issues surrounding the White shooting, which is why a group of citizens will be holding a forum on Dec. …

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