Virginia police determine if and when body, dash video is released. Should they?

Regional

RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) — Days after a Henrico police officer allegedly shot and killed a driver following a crash on I-64, investigators have provided little circumstances surrounding the incident, nor have they shared video of the encounter.

However, other Virginia police departments have opted to more quickly share crucial video depicting similar officer-involved incidents.

While different police forces may provide varied reasons to release or keep crucial video, state law does not require them to release body or dash camera video to the public.

With cameras seemingly at every corner, public pressure for police to release body and dash cam video often comes with push back: the incident in Henrico’s east end is the latest local case to come under question.

While the county’s top prosecutor, Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said information is still being gathered, police officials have opted to expedite the release of video.

Two days after Isaiah Brown was shot multiple times by a Spotsylvania sheriff’s deputy, 911 audio and body camera video was shared. 

Last summer, state police shared video where a trooper was allegedly hit with a piece of asphalt during unrest outside police headquarters; one of many officer-involved incidents during months of protest and riot after George Floyd’s death.

At the time, state police said their reason for releasing the video was “demands” from social media and elected officials to “show it.”

“There is no expressed law that tells the police department what they must do or what they must not do, as far as the release of footage like that,” 8News Legal Analyst Russ Stone told 8News.

Take two fatal police shootings for example: the case of Xzavier Hill, and Marcus David Peters.

The video showing the police chase leading up to Hill’s killing was released after Goochland prosecutors announced the officers were cleared of wrongdoing, one month later.

However, video of the Marcus David Peters case in Richmond came out mere days after the investigation was launched.

Then-police Chief Alfred Durham said of the desire for near-immediate answers, “people want answers right then and there. I don’t have answers. We want a fair and thorough investigation.”

State law requires individual police departments to create policies surrounding if and when to release video.

Henrico police policy states that body camera video is subject to public records request, but ultimately the chief of police decides about its release.

It’s unknown whether Police Chief Eric English plans to release the video on the I-64 shooting.

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