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Prosecutor: Body cam footage in fatal police shootings to be withheld for at least 30 days

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 5:29 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After taxpayers spent millions to provide the Honolulu Police Department with body cameras, city Prosecutor Steven Alm now says video in two fatal police shootings will be withheld from the public for 30 to 60 days.

Civil liberties and defense attorneys said that decision will increase the public’s distrust of law enforcement.

“All body camera video should be released in the public interest and any policy that does not promote transparency and the release of body camera video is not restoring trust,” said Honolulu deputy Public Defender Jacquie Esser.

In a news release, Alm said his office will not publicly release body camera video, 911 recordings and other evidence in the recent fatal shootings of Lindani Myeni, an unarmed black man in Nuuanu, and 16-year-old robbery suspect Iramember Sykap unless his office determines that the shootings are justified.

He said such a review will take 30 to 60 days.

Police have already released some of the body camera video in the Myeni case, but have withheld the Sykap video.

Attorney Myles Breiner said once HPD releases video in one case, it should release video in other officer-involved shootings.

He added that an independent agency ― not the city Prosecutor’s Office ― should conduct all investigations of police shootings.

“HPD, in my opinion, stepped all over themselves here. They initially released what they saw as exculpatory video or footage showing officers acted appropriately,” he said.

“It created a situation that the public is clamoring ― and rightly so ― for full disclosure. Either you disclose everything or you disclose nothing.”

But some lawyers argue that releasing body camera video could influence potential jurors who will have to decide further cases.

“A lawyer cannot release information and release evidence and taint a jury,” said attorney Megan Kau. “A prosecutor cannot act to taint the jury to try to get the jury to come on its side.”

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