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Equal access needed

From: domainremoved <Aram>
Date: Sat, 17 Jan 2015 09:25:42 -0800

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>> Letters to the editor Jan 16, 2015
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>> Palo Alto Weekly
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>> Editor,
>> A recent article in the Daily Post ("Cop car cams fight crime," Dec. 27-28) provoked me to do some thinking about the public's right to access police videos. The updated video system that the Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) has recently purchased, and are now using in their patrol cars, sounds excellent. It is great that the updated video equipment allows for the wider and more accurate capture of activity by alleged criminals, as well as the police. Moreover, it is important that the tapes content can be accessed by defense attorneys representing someone charged with a crime, pursuant to criminal law discovery practice.
>> However, if a citizen is not arrested and charged with a crime, but still believes they have been abused, beaten or in some other fashion treated unfairly by the police, there is no policy in place to allow the videos to be viewed by the complaining party, police watchdogs or representatives of the press.
>> Notwithstanding the fact that the police can release a video as evidence that they have been falsely accused of police misconduct, the alleged victim of police abuse has no equal right to demand access to the tapes. Gaps in the California Public Records Act, and special protections afforded by the Peace Officers Bill of Rights, must be closed to ensure public access to this valuable tool.
>> The same legal dilemma will apply to the use of body-worn cameras, when the PAPD implements them in the future. The lack of a firm policy allowing full access to police videos undercuts the credibility of the video program. It leaves the public feeling manipulated and mistrustful of the police. With a more equal policy in place, we can ensure that Palo Alto takes a leadership role in police transparency and community police relations.
>> Aram James
>> Los Robles Avenue, Palo Alto
Received on Sat Jan 17 2015 - 09:20:09 PST

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