SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A rather typical drunk driving arrest has become has turned into a First Amendment stand-off over whether video recorded by police dashboard cameras should be routinely available to the public.
Releasing video of the arrest of Jeanine Williams on charges of driving under the influence and supplying false information to police may expose law enforcement tactics and procedures, according to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.
Williams allegedly did not have a valid license or registration when she was stopped by the California Highway Patrol on Bryant Street earlier this year.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi fears keeping the video sealed could set a dangerous precedent that makes it difficult to provide oversight in cases of police abuse.
“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 said.
“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.”
The Public Defender three years ago released private video showing rough-handed and illegal behavior by several San Francisco police officers at a seedy hotel. Dozens of criminal cases were tossed as a result.
A spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the Williams case.
A judge takes up a motion for a protective order in the case on June 19.