Lawmaker says AG should release body camera video from Milwaukee

Lawmaker says AG should release body camera video from Milwaukee

The co-author of a bill to create independent investigations of police shootings said she believes the attorney general should release body camera video of a recent shooting in Milwaukee.

Brad Schimel told reporters Monday that he wouldn’t release two body camera videos taken of the shooting death of 23-year-old Sylville Smith until the district attorney decided whether or not to charge the officer in the incident.

“I can tell you now, viewing the body camera videos will not answer all of your questions,” Schimel said in a news conference. “Your questions will be better answered when the videos are viewed in the context of all of the information that is gathered in the investigation.”

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, co-authored the bill in 2014 that says investigations of officer-involved shootings must be done by an agency not involved in the incident. It also specifies that body camera videos or other investigative materials must be released to the public following a decision by a DA on whether or not to charge an officer.

“I don’t really buy the argument that this somehow compromises an investigation. I don’t think that’s true,” Taylor said. “I think once you’re done interviewing key witnesses and getting statements from police officers there’s no reason to wait to release this video and I think we have really good examples of why it is so important to the public.”

In Chicago this month, the department released dash and body camera video footage following the shooting of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal eight days after the incident. That followed a 14-month delay in releasing the video of the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

“I think as we saw from Chicago it probably is a much better practice to release the body camera evidence as soon as possible to address lingering issues the public has and that the public wants to know,” Taylor said.

Schimel told reporters that when the video is released, Smith’s family would be the first to see it. They, nor officers, have seen it despite requests.

“I must reiterate the call for patience,” Schimel said Monday. “This is a top priority. The investigation is expedited but not rushed.”

Taylor said she would like to see a renewed focus on body cameras in the next legislative session, and consideration for a mandatory time period under which law enforcement would release any videos.