Joshua Garland1.JPG
This week, the King County Prosecutor's office dismissed charges against a photographer who had been arrested at the May Day protests. Prosecutors had charged 28-year-old

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Joshua Alex Garland Case Shows Why Dash-Cam Videos Should Be Public

Joshua Garland1.JPG
This week, the King County Prosecutor's office dismissed charges against a photographer who had been arrested at the May Day protests. Prosecutors had charged 28-year-old Joshua Alex Garland, on assignment that day for Real Change, with assault for allegedly grabbing an officer's hand, twisting his arm and trying to pull him into the crowd. But lo and behold, videos posted to YouTube suggest it didn't happen that way at all.

As it appears from the video on the next page, Garland was pulled by an officer, not the other way around. (Garland is the one carrying a camera and wearing sunglasses and a bandanna. His attorney, Andy Robertson, says he had already been pepper sprayed once that day, and was trying to protect himself from another dousing.)

Robertson credits prosecutors office for being "extremely professional" in their willingness to look at the videos with her and then drop the charges, without dragging Garland through a trial. But things would have turned out differently had there been no video.

Which bring us to a suit under appeal to the state Supreme Court. Last month, a King County Superior Court judge ruled that the city was entitled to hold onto police dash-cam videos for three years because of potential litigation that might arise. As we wrote at the time, the ruling was especially absurd because Seattle Police Department policy calls for the destruction of dash-cam videos after three years. So the videos could be trashed before being made public.

Fisher Broadcasting, owner of KOMO-TV, appealed to the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, a wide array of media companies and their advocates--including Seattle Weekly--filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting KOMO's position.

From the brief:

Dash cam videos provide the public with an important way to review and evaluate police activities. This is a fairly recent development: historically, disputes over police action often came down to an officer's word against that of a suspect or witness.

Such videos not only have exonerated wrongly charged suspects, the brief notes, they have even more often cleared police officers falsely charged with misconduct.

Of course, there's also YouTube, another fairly recent development that, as we see in Garland's case, can produce crucial police videos. But you can't count on YouTube, Robertson warns. "This was a unique circumstance," she says of the May Day protests. "You're not normally going to have a bunch of people out with cameras."

More typically, an encounter with police happens at a roadside stop with few or no onlookers. "Sometimes, the dash camera is the only way of capturing that," Robertson says.

See Garland video on the next page.

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