How ironic it is that the one person whose lawsuit was responsible for forcing the Chicago Police Department to release the disturbing video of the Laquan McDonald shooting was not given access to the CPD Headquarters press event on Wednesday, November 24, 2015. Had it not been for the due diligence of Smith, a freelance journalist filing a lawsuit to have the video released via the Freedom of Information Act. It is with that lawsuit a judge ruled in his favor and order the video to be released before Thanksgiving Day, thus the results the residents of Chicago and the news viewing world saw the graphic video of McDonald being gunned down on October 20, 2014.
Read more as reported by NY Times:
The freelance journalist whose lawsuit forced the Chicago Police Department to release video of a fatal police shooting of a black teenager says he was barred from attending a news conference with the mayor and police superintendent on Tuesday.
Dozens of journalists were gathered inside Chicago’s Police Headquarters on Tuesday, listening to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry F. McCarthy discuss the shooting of the teenager, Laquan McDonald, 17. Absent was Brandon Smith, the freelance journalist whose lawsuit over the summer had pressed for the release of the police dashboard camera video.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Smith said that he had rushed to the news conference after hearing about it from friends, but that police officers guarding the door had blocked him from entering. He said they had told him the room was too full to allow members of the news media without credentials. Mr. Smith does not have them, he said, because he does not usually attend credentialed events.
Mr. Smith said he did not know if officials had deliberately kept him out or if it had been an oversight. But he said he should have been invited because of his role in the video’s release.
“This wouldn’t be happening if not for my lawsuit,” he said.
Mr. Smith filed a lawsuit in August requesting the release of the video under the Freedom of Information Act. Last week, a judge ruled in his favor and ordered the video released before Thanksgiving. The city complied on Tuesday, hours after the officer said to have fired the fatal shots, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with first-degree murder.
While it is not unusual for journalists to be required to have credentials, usually in the form of a hard pass from their employer or a government agency, Mr. Smith’s exclusion from the event caused a stir on Twitter, where he posted about having to watch the video on a smartphone while standing outside.
“The worst part about being barred from the press conference that my lawsuit precipitated is that I can’t ask Rahm questions about it,” he wrote.
Most people were supportive, he said, and his following on Twitter grew to more than 6,000 from 1,100 within the day. Brad Edwards, a reporter for the CBS affiliate in Chicago, saw Mr. Smith’s complaint on Twitter and asked a question about police reform on his behalf at the news conference, pointedly mentioning that Mr. Smith had been barred from attending.
Mr. Emanuel and Mr. McCarthy took turns answering the question, but neither addressed Mr. Smith’s absence. Afterward, police officials did not answer requests for comment made by email and phone.
Some people on social media criticized Mr. Smith for demanding the video over the objections of Mr. McDonald’s family.
Mr. Smith said that he felt terrible for the family and that his decision to sue for the release of the video had been difficult. But he said he felt it was the best thing he could do to galvanize efforts for police reform.
“After all the stories and the statistics have come out, and there’s still no talk of reform, what’s left?” he said. “I guess we have to show what happened. And to me, that really does right by the memory of those who died.”
On Twitter, he posted two questions he said he would have liked to ask Mr. Emanuel during the news conference.
The questions reflected data — reported by the Better Government Association, a watchdog group — showing that Chicago police officers fatally shot 70 people from 2010 to 2014, the most of any of the police departments in the 10 largest cities in the United States. Chicago ranked fourth on that measure when the numbers were adjusted for population, according to data gathered by the group and published in July in The Chicago Sun-Times.
The city’s Independent Police Review Authority has investigated nearly 400 shootings by police officers since 2007 and found only one to be unjustified, according to the group’s report.
Mr. Edwards asked Mr. Smith’s question about whether Mr. Emanuel would push to change the city’s police culture.
Mr. McCarthy responded first, asserting that the department was building on the good parts of its culture and working to revamp everything else. He said that shootings by the police were down almost 70 percent, but it was not clear what data he was referring to or what time frame it covered.
“That’s really significant,” he said. “And we did it through policy, training and supervision. And we’re going to continue to do that.”
Mr. Emanuel said the officer charged in the shooting, Mr. Van Dyke, “does not represent the Police Department.”
Mr. Smith said he planned to file more Freedom of Information Act requests in the case and to look at other police shootings.
Source: NY Times
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