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NY AG moves to expedite release of police body cam footage

September 21, 2020 Associated Press
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New York Attorney General Letitia James promised Sunday to expedite the release of body camera footage in cases of alleged police misconduct that her office investigates.

Speaking in Rochester, which has been in turmoil since the footage of Daniel Prude’s fatal encounter with police was released more than five months after his death, James said her office “will be proactively releasing footage to the public on our own.”

“This is footage we obtain as part of investigations conducted by our special prosecutions unit,” James said. “Up until now, the release of footage has been up to the discretion of local authorities. But this process has caused confusion, delays, and has hampered transparency in a system that should be as open as possible.”

It was unclear how many cases would be affected by the policy, since the attorney general’s office does not review all footage of police interactions with the public.

James spoke in Rochester after meeting with family members of Prude, a Black man who died after police put a hood over his head and pressed his face into the pavement on March 23. There have been nightly protests since Prude’s family released video of the fatal encounter earlier this month. James announced on Sept. 5 that she would empanel a grand jury to investigate his death.

James said she also met with leaders of the protests, and she indicated that her office may investigate allegations of excessive force by police patrolling the protests, as she did following New York City protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

James said protesters who believe they have witnessed police brutality should contact her office’s civil rights bureau “so that we can determine whether or not we will seek jurisdiction in investigating the activities between Rochester protesters and the Rochester Police Department.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren fired Police Chief La’Ron Singletary and suspended her top lawyer and communications director in the aftermath of the death of Prude, who would have turned 42 Sunday.

Seven officers who were present during the encounter with Prude were suspended without pay. Protesters have called for criminal charges against the officers and are demanding that Warren resign herself.

James spoke the day after Rochester, New York state’s third-largest city, mourned the loss of two 19-year-olds who were killed when gunfire erupted at a backyard party.

The victims were not the intended targets of Saturday’s shooting, police said. Fourteen other people were wounded. No arrests have been announced in the shootings, which police said were not linked to Prude’s death.

James urged anyone with information about the shootings to come forward and cooperate with authorities.

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