This powerful statement from the New York Times editorial board captures the cries of many people on the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina tonight.
"The Police Department in Charlotte, N.C., has responded in exactly the wrong way to a police officer's killing on Tuesday of another black man, Keith Scott," reads the editorial. "Release the Charlotte Police Video."
There is no legal reason to withhold the video from the public, and in this fraught situation, the best way to allay the community's distrust is complete transparency. Unfortunately, the city's mayor, Jennifer Roberts, seems largely at sea and distressingly out of touch with how lack of an open governmental response led to demonstrations in places like Ferguson, Mo., Cleveland and Baltimore. She said Thursday morning that she had not even viewed the video.
The folly of stonewalling is well demonstrated in Chicago, where a scandal stemming from the city's mishandling of a police shooting of a black teenager in 2014 opened wounds that will take years to heal. The city maintained at the outset that Laquan McDonald, 17, was threatening police officers with a knife when they killed him. But when the video was finally made public 13 months later, it showed the young man moving away from the officers when one of them executed him.
The scandal has toppled a county prosecutor, discredited city government and further alienated Chicagoans from a Police Department long known for its brutality.
Some police departments are starting to understand that public trust depends on good faith and openness. In the Tulsa case, for example, the Police Department committed itself to "full transparency and disclosure."
The North Carolina legislature, however, made that far more difficult when it passed an ill-advised measure this year that allows police departments to withhold camera footage from the public unless a court orders the release.