Editorial: Bureau of Criminal Apprehension should release body cam footage of Thurman Blevins Jr. shooting

Transparency following wake of another Minneapolis police shooting is a necessary step for the Minneapolis Police Department and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

With the death of Thurman Blevins Jr., we face yet another tragic and fatal police shooting that is provoking anger and distrust throughout our community, especially among the citizens of North Minneapolis. 

As the investigation of this shooting begins, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension should, at the very least, be as transparent as possible with the public. Justice for Blevins’ death can only come through complete transparency and the proliferation of truth. We can no longer accept rumors, conflicting eyewitness accounts and inconsistent perspectives. This means that the body cam footage of the incident absolutely must be released, and soon. When Justine Damond was killed by a police officer last July, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced mandatory body cam usage during all calls and traffic stops, saying MPD needs to regain the community’s trust. If the rebuilding of trust is truly the objective of the MPD, then the immediate release of the body cam footage of the Blevins shooting is imperative – not only for this particular tragedy, but also as a gesture of healing and proof of a commitment to change on the part of the MPD. Even if police officers do have body cams that are turned on and in use, withholding the footage from public judgment – especially in the wake of a shooting as disputed by eyewitness accounts as this one is – will prove MPD to have been posturing, making promises without intent to follow through.

This particular case could serve as a turning point in the way in which the MPD and BCA handle investigations of fatal police shootings. Everything in the MPD’s power should be done to persuade the BCA to release the footage as soon as possible. All 13 City Council members have signed a letter calling for a release of the footage, and the community at large is emphatically calling for its release. The body cam footage will likely be released after the case is closed, but the public should have the right to this footage sooner. After the case is closed and months have gone by, many will have forgotten about this case. Firsthand visual evidence of a shooting is extraordinarily powerful, as evidenced by the Facebook livestream of Philando Castile’s shooting in 2016 and the subsequent outcry. 

The public should have the right to be aware and to gather and process information with relative immediacy. As time passes, the emotion wanes, the community response dwindles and there is less public feedback as to how officers should be held accountable. And if body cams are not being used as tools of accountability, then MPD is conducting themselves in a way that is irresponsible and insincere — certainly building no foundation for a trusting relationship between their organization and the community.