After the dramatic police shooting incident on Friday that left Angelo West dead, Boston police officer John T. Moynihan critically injured, and another woman with non-life-threatening injuries, the Boston Police Department made the unusual decision to share the video with a limited number of people. Both Police Commissioner William Evans and Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley have both described the video, saying it exonerates the police officers, showing they killed West only after he opened fire on them and shot Moynihan in the face. Thankfully, Moynihan underwent a successful surgery after the shooting and is expected to recover. According to The Boston Herald:
Black ministers, pols and community leaders praised Boston police yesterday for their unprecedented move to share a video with them of the Friday night shooting of a gang cop in Roxbury — footage they say exonerates officers — and called for such cooperation to become routine in police shootings.
“There’s this level of transparency, there’s this level of open candidness, that we’re going to do this not as us versus them, or them versus us. But we’re working on this … collectively,” said Darnell Williams, president of the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.
Williams was among a group of black clergy, community leaders and elected officials who yesterday saw footage at Boston police headquarters of Friday night’s shootout and critical wounding of officer John T. Moynihan...
Williams and others, including state Rep. Russell Holmes and City Councilor Tito Jackson, spoke at Roxbury’s Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church yesterday afternoon, before walking to the shooting scene and speaking to residents and business owners about what was caught on camera.
Boston’s NAACP branch president Michael Curry said the video footage was indisputable, and showed police did nothing wrong.
“The police officer opened the vehicle car door and was shot in the face by the driver of the vehicle. That’s very clear in the video,” Curry said. “The suspect in question … then began to shoot at the other officers on the other side of the vehicle.”
Williams and Curry said officers didn’t have guns drawn when they approached the SUV.
“For the first time since I’ve been an activist in the city, there’s at least an openness to letting us see the video. To responding to our questions around what happened. That’s progress,” Curry said.
Holmes said he hopes police establish a protocol in releasing videos after police shootings, and called for body cameras.
The Boston Globe also spoke positively of the decision to share the video with this limited group of people, saying it "could serve as a model" for future responses to police shootings.
But to truly serve as a model, the Boston police should have simply released the video to the general public. While the police will probably eventually release the video to the public, they should have simply done so at the time they shared it with this limited group. If the police were able to share the video with these people without jeopardizing the integrity of their investigation, there's no reason they can't release it to the public at large.
Releasing the video could help defuse some of the the tension that was obviously present during the confrontations between police officers and residents the night of the shooting. Killing someone is serious matter and, if you haven't done anything wrong, being as transparent as possible is the best way to build trust.
I have little doubt that the video shows that the shooting was justified, but, as The Salem News wisely observed in an editorial related to a different police shooting, "Releasing information does not imply that someone did something wrong. In fact, it assures the public that there is nothing to hide."
We have filed a public records request for the video and we hope that the Boston Police Department will serve as a model for transparency by releasing it to us and other news media organizations in a timely fashion.