San Francisco prosecutors are refusing to release California Highway Patrol dashboard camera (dash cams) footage of a May 12th DUI arrest. The public defender on the case, Jeff Adachi, is arguing that the withholding of the footage violates the First Amendment.
Jeanine Williams was arrested charged with driving under the influence, providing false information to police, driving with a suspended license and expired registration.
The California Highway patrol provided footage of the DUI arrest to prosecutors on the condition that the footage not is released to the media or the public without a court order. According to the CHP, releasing the video, could expose “tactics” which, in turn, could threaten “public and officer safety.”
But what does the CHP really not want us to see, I wonder…
“Let’s say we have a video that shows some illegal conduct by the officers in the case, or that the procedures aren’t followed. That’s something that the public has a right to know,” Adachi told CBS San Francisco. “The implications of a sweeping protective order that would bar the release of arrest videos is huge because you have a situation where the officers are conducting arrests, conducting their official duties, that should be subject to public scrutiny.”
A hearing on the issue is scheduled for next week.
Releasing dash cam footage is becoming increasingly common is California DUI cases. And a majority of the time, they show a DUI suspect displaying the telltale signs of intoxication. If this was all the video showed, I don’t think CHP would have a problem releasing the video, which it has done numerous times before. So why now are they refusing? One cannot help but ask exactly what the CHP doesn’t want us to see. Is it really “tactics” or possibly something else?
If it is “something else,” it would not be the first time law enforcement was caught on dash cam footage acting improperly.
We don’t know what’s on that video. However, if the video shows exculpatory evidence, the defense is, by law, entitled to it.
Beyond that, Adachi is absolutely right. Dash cams also provide footage of law enforcement agencies such as the CHP performing their official duties. Whether law enforcement officers are performing them properly or improperly, the public has a right to police transparency.