St. Paul officer-involved shooting sheds light on how bodycam video is handled, released

St. Paul Police are releasing the bodycam footage of the officer-involved shooting that left one man dead Sept. 15. It’s one of the fastest turnarounds of footage in the city’s recent history.

Defense attorney Marsh Halberg said he sees two things happening with quicker bodycam releases.

One is simply the technology learning curve - being able to get it, view it and release it quicker –but, the bigger thing is public image and public pressure.

“I think there’s a very conscious effort going on now in police departments to get out ahead of a case, whether it’s good news or bad news,” he said. “More importantly, I think police departments recognize nationwide that there’s a concern with image, reputation with the community, and concern about transparency.”

Sunday night, protesters demanded justice for 31-year-old Ronald Davis just hours after St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell announced the bodycam video would be released on Tuesday, only 9 days after the shooting.

One year ago, Chief Axtell released video in the shooting death of Billy Hughes only 12 days later, hoping to dispel rumors and calm protests. A month earlier, bodycam video of the shooting of Thurman Blevins was released by the Minneapolis mayor five weeks after the shooting in the interest of “transparency.”

The timeframes are quickly getting shorter.

In a statement, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said they have “no position regarding whether or when other law enforcement entities release video; however, the BCA advises that once video is released, the BCA cannot ensure the integrity of statements provided by witnesses who come forward after that release.”

Halberg believes it probably won’t get much faster.

“I think it’s going to be at least a week delay is pretty common; you just want to make sure you’ve got everything correct,” he said.