The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday March 28th

Video decision regrettable: Refusal to release dashboard camera video deprives public of ability to judge case independently

A judge ruled Friday that the dashboard camera video showing Courtland Smith’s interaction with police officers before he was killed should be permanently sealed.

This is a regrettable decision that denies the public the ability to examine fully this incident. The decision runs the risk of factoring into future court decisions.

It’s certainly understandable that Smith’s family and friends might prefer not to witness such a tragic moment.

And some unscrupulous media outlets might have used the video to sensationalize Smith’s tragic death.

But the public deserves to judge for itself the conduct of the officers.

The video was supposed to be released immediately after the Randolph County district attorney concluded that the officer who shot Smith used appropriate force.

Superior Court Judge Brad Long overruled his previous statement last week, claiming his court did not have the authority to allow the release of the videotape.

Yes, the district attorney’s report and Smith’s 911 call were made available to the public. But they does not tell the whole story.

The decision to permanently seal the videotape runs counter to the very purpose of the dashcams — to serve as an unbiased, firsthand witness to any events police officers encounter, adding an additional level of accountability.

While a strong emotional appeal to keep the video sealed can be made, the decision needs to be based solely on the law.

Transparency and accountability are especially important for law enforcement — the very people that are supposed to protect us. Without it, the public’s trust in local law enforcement is in danger.

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