And Now to the (Police) Videotape – The Connecticut Law Tribune


On Dec. 8, recently retired Hartford police officer Sean Spell was arrested and charged with excessive force for his actions last summer. On June 4, police dashboard cameras recorded Spell kicking Emilio Diaz in the head as Diaz lay prone and handcuffed after a high-speed chase. Diaz was already injured when this occurred; Spell himself claimed he kicked Diaz to stop him from spitting blood.Read More

Smart Redaction™ for Police body-worn video – PR Newswire

DECATUR, Ga., Sept. 14, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — An Atlanta-based technology company, Utility Associates, Inc., today announced it has unveiled a state-of-the-art software that will blur-out faces and personally identifiable markings such as body tattoos to protect the privacy and identity of victims, innocent bystanders, minors and undercover police officers in police In-Car and Body-Worn video.  This technology, Smart Redaction™, will save millions of dollars in manual video redaction labor costs and further ensure police protection, accountability and transparency.

“We are dedicated to keeping First Responders connected and in control during encounters and dangerous situations.  At the same time, Smart Redaction allows police departments to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for body-worn video on a timely basis, without the cost of a large staff to manually redact video,” said Robert McKeeman, CEO of Utility.

Smart Redaction enables 21st Century Police Accountability and Transparency by removing cost as a barrier [Read More]

Editorial: Reopening Police Records Was Blow Against Secrecy – Hartford Courant

This was one legislative action taken in the dark of night that was welcome. At about 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, the final day of the 2015 session, the state Senate gave its unanimous consent to a compromise bill that restores much of the public access to police arrest records lost last year in a brutal state Supreme Court ruling.

It was an important — and one of the few — victories for the cause of freedom of information in Connecticut this year.

In the 2014 court decision, the justices severely limited the amount of information that police are required to disclose about arrests to so-called blotter information (name, address, the crime charged, etc.) and an incident report or a press release, neither of which has to say much.

Police would not have to disclose such vital information as footage from body cameras, for example.

The bill that passed early Wednesday morning was a response to the court.

As originally written, it would have required that all arrest records be open to the public unless they are exempted for reasons already covered by law, such as to protect the identity of witnesses. But the bill — HB 6750 — suffered a near-death experience in the judiciary committee only a month ago. The committee restored the court’s meager access requirements.

Much, but not all, of the public access to police records lost in the court decision was regained through negotiations between the office of Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane and the state Freedom of Information Commission.

Still, it was a red-letter day for advocates of open, accessible government. Advocates can try again next year to recapture the rest.

Disclosure of arrest records lets the public police the police, the most powerful of public agencies — an all-important attribute of a free society.

The state House also approved the compromise unanimously. The bill awaits Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s signature. He should sign it.

Editorial: Government Openness Dealt Another Blow – Hartford Courant

That rumble you hear is Ella T. Grasso turning over in her grave in disgust at the damage today’s public officials are doing to the cherished concept of open government that she and lawmakers of her time bequeathed to the state.

“Secrecy in government is inherently inconsistent with a true democracy,” declared the preamble of the landmark Freedom of Information Act signed by Gov. Grasso in 1975. Those proud FOIA pioneers who put Connecticut at the forefront of government transparency would be aghast at how much secrecy clouds the public sphere today and how much trickery is used to advance secrecy’s cause.

Many public officials — legislators, prosecutors and the police — simply find it inconvenient to trust the public with the truth.

The leading immediate battle in the fight against secrecy centers on House Bill 6750, which began life this session as a means to reverse a bad state Supreme Court decision.

The justices had, in their decision last year, severely restricted the amount of information that police departments are required to disclose about arrests to so-called blotter information and either an incident report or a press release. Under the court decision, police would not be required to release such vital information as the increasingly important footage from body cameras — information that holds clues as to whether law enforcement officers are doing their jobs properly and with respect for civilians.

House Bill 6750 as originally written was indeed a good antidote to the Supreme Court’s suffocating restrictions. It would have required that all arrest records be open to the public unless they are exempted for reasons already covered by law, such as to protect the identity of informants or to avoid prejudicing a prosecution.

The bill passed the government administration and elections committee comfortably — only to be bastardized in a surprise move by the judiciary committee. Judiciary, at the behest of Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane, rewrote House Bill 6750 to restore the court’s meager disclosure requirements.

This is disgraceful. The disclosure of arrest records is needed to hold the police — in important ways the most powerful of government agencies — accountable and to elevate the public’s trust in government.

Mr. Kane and transparency advocates talk of negotiating a compromise. But HB 6750 should be restored to its original wording and passed by the General Assembly.