Release the Video
Kerr Putney, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police chief, is hanging onto the Keith Scott video for dear life.
His strategy is archaic, even ancient, and is totally at cross purposes with the notion of building trust.
What we are seeing week after week, is stunning visual evidence of something seriously amiss.
And its happened before.
Good Morning, Vietnam
The nightly TV news documentation of injured and dead US troops being airlifted from the rice paddies of Vietnam had a devastating effect on the war effort there.
The ability for all Americans to see first hand the carnage and the suffering caused President Lyndon Johnson to both lose support and control of the war.
Even his closest supporters in Congress abandoned him as they realized that the visual imagery was unassailable proof of a failed policy.
Leaders seethed as they realized that war correspondents and their cameramen were showing the actual outcome of the American intervention.
Smartphones, body cams and similar devices have upended street policing by documenting, for the first time ever, the details of citizen encounters.
No more Vietnam’s where a “hi-tech” cameraman was necessary to expose the battlefield truth.
Now, the home front is the battlefield and everyone is a cameraman or woman.
Capturing public imagery is now so commonplace that it has fundamentally changed the way we live.
Politicians and law enforcement officials who want to hold back imagery are but little Lyndon Johnson’s being led to political slaughter by their outmoded thinking and ideology.
Alice in Wonderland
In Charlotte, the no-release reasons are downright absurd.
Putney says in the Times, “If I were to put it out indiscriminately, and it doesnâ€™t give you good context, it can inflame the situation and make it even worse,â€ he said. â€œIt will exacerbate the backlash. It will increase the distrust, so that is where discernment, judgment and reasonableness have to come in.â€
The translation is we want time to spin it and control the story.
His use of the word “indiscriminately” implies that he is the arbiter of facts and the public’s right to know.
He is neither.
And, “discernment, judgment and reasonableness” is just code for “we are smarter than you and we will tell you what we want, when we want.”
Chief Putney apparently doesn’t realize that the failure to release the video is a chief cause for inflammation.
Putney also said, “Itâ€™s not that I want to hide anything. Itâ€™s I want to be more thoughtful and deliberate in delivering the whole story.â€
“The whole story” is but another reference to controlling the narrative.
“Mayor Jennifer Roberts said the video â€œshould be released.â€
Then, as the chief elected official of the city she should do just that.
Neither elected politicians nor law enforcement have even begun to remotely grasp the implications of universal access to video documentation and realtime broadcast.
The result of their playing by out-dated rules is that they have lost control of a situation that many don’t know even exists.
That situation is the fact that heretofore obscure and violent policing methods have been cast into the harsh light of midday and there is no going back.
Change is in the wind.