Members of the Arizona Legislature are worried that body-camera footage can be unfair to law-enforcement officers. SB 1253, sponsored by Republican Sonny Borelli and backed by several police organizations, would affect any officers who are being investigated for incidents involving the use of force. According to the bill, those officers have to be given a chance to review the body-camera footage from the incident before they make a statement about what happened — otherwise, their statement can’t be used to discipline them.
The bill's authors say that the video often doesn't give a police picture. Below are two examples of body-cam footage from recent incidents. You be the judge.
According to a press release issued last along with body-cam video of the incident, two MCSO deputies were responding to a "citizen tip" last Sunday at a home in Wittmann when they encountered a barking canine.The tip, which supposedly related to "criminal activity" at the residence, turned out to be unfounded, according to the MCSO. But Sergeant Daniel McPheeters and Deputy Fernando DeLaTorre didn't know that at the time. As you can see from the body-cam footage from Deputy DeLaTorre, the pit bull runs out from behind a tarp, barking loudly. Sergeant McPheeters slipped on the grass and shot the dog. The press release states that the "pit bull charged," which seems debatable.
This body-cam video shows Loreal Tsingine brandishing a pair of scissors at Officer Austin Shipley of the Winslow Police Department before he shot and killed her during a confrontation outside a Circle K store on Easter Sunday last year. Versions of the video posted on YouTube have footage of the actual shooting edited out of the March 27 clip. It fades in as Shipley gets out of his car and confronts Tsingine, who is holding a pair of what appear to be bent-tipped medical scissors in her left hand. Shipley attempts to subdue Tsingine, pushing her to the ground. She gets up and brandishes the scissors again. Shipley shoves her away and takes a few steps back as she falls again, gets to her feet, and comes toward him, still seemingly holding the scissors. A second police officer enters the frame from the left. Then, Shipley's sidearm enters the frame, aimed at Tsingine.
The most complete versions shared on YouTube freeze before Shipley fires, then pick up with an audio-only portion captured after Tsingine fell to the ground.
Is the evidence clear?
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Antonia Noori Farzan is a staff writer at New Times and an honors graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Before moving to Arizona, she worked for the New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
Ray Stern is the former news editor of Phoenix New Times. He worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.