Keeping officer-involved shooting videos from the public undermines trust in the legal system
It has been two years, 10 months and 11 days since a Los Angeles police officer shot and killed an unarmed 29-year-old during a late-night scuffle a block away from the Venice Boardwalk.
Enough time for the L.A. Police Commission to rule that former LAPD Officer Clifford Proctor violated department policy and had no justification to shoot Brendon Glenn twice in the back on a busy Windward Avenue sidewalk.
Enough time for LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to say Proctor should be charged with manslaughter for Glenn’s death.
Enough time for Proctor to resign from the force as he faces domestic violence charges in Orange County.
Enough time for the Los Angeles City Council to settle a wrongful death suit by Glenn’s family for $4 million.
But only now is the press and public able to view security camera footage of the shooting — and only because Los Angeles County prosecutors have finally decided not to file charges against Proctor. In other words, now that it’s too late for anyone to demand justice for Brendon Glenn.
The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office announced its decision last week with the release of an 83-page investigation report that bends over backwards to give Proctor the benefit of every possible doubt.
Proctor said he opened fire after seeing Glenn’s hand touch the holster of his partner’s service revolver, but two years ago Beck told police commissioners the LAPD’s internal investigation found no evidence — including video footage — to suggest Glenn’s hand was anywhere near the gun or might have appeared to be.
The D.A.’s report flips the script to state that “neither the video nor any witnesses had the same vantage point as Proctor” and offers the linguistic gymnastics that “no witness stated that Glenn was not attempting to grab one of [the other officer’s] weapons.” It concludes that Proctor might have had reason to believe Glenn posed some kind of threat, thus giving Proctor the right to shoot Glenn in the back from several feet away.
“Prosecutors cannot ethically charge a person with a crime if they do not believe a jury would convict that person of that crime,” concludes L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey — who in doing so ensures that a jury will never get a chance to decide.
The cognitive dissonance of L.A.’s top cop siding against one of his officers only to be undermined by county prosecutors is an alarming turn of events that undercuts confidence in our justice system and promotes widespread cynicism that cops who kill unarmed young men will always get away
“Justice cannot be served if justice is not sought,” said L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, who calls Lacey’s decision “baffling, disturbing, and — by any common-sense standard — wrong.”
We believe Bonin is well within his rights to make that assertion. The way this case played out is baffling and disturbing. And it certainly feels wrong.
Democracy only works when the public is allowed to monitor the activities of public officials — council members, prosecutors and police officers included — in order to hold them accountable for their actions. The video footage of the Glenn shooting was a matter of public record, and keeping it secret for nearly three years contradicted a compelling public interest in good government.
As The Argonaut reported last week, the L.A. Police Commission is poised to reverse decades of government secrecy by ordering the public release of officer-involved shooting videos within 45 days, unless prosecutors can demonstrate that doing so would be harmful to the interests of justice.
It may be too late for Brendon Glenn, but we urge the commission to demonstrate that the law really is on our side.