DES MOINES, Iowa — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is appealing a ruling over police body camera video. It could have far-reaching implications as to what video the public is allowed to see in the future.
During a domestic abuse call, Burlington Police Officer Jesse Hill says he meant to fire his weapon at a dog attacking him, but he mistakenly shot the dog’s owner, Autumn Steele, instead. She died from her injuries.
Burlington Police Department only released 12 seconds of body camera footage from the incident. Attorneys for Steele’s family argued more should be released.
However, last month Iowa’s Public Information Board ruled that police departments do have the right to refuse to release video, as long as they see fit. The ACLU says that is wrong.
“This is an issue that is of critical importance, not just to Mr. Klein and his ability to get these records or for the Steele family, but truly for all members of the public, especially reporters, especially advocates, attorneys [and] anyone who takes part in this vital function of informing the electorate about the goings on of the government,” said ACLU of Iowa Legal Director Rita Bettis Austen.
Austen says body cameras were sold as a tool to provide greater public oversight, and she says they should be part of the public record.
Hill did not face any criminal charges in the shooting. Steele’s family received a $2 million settlement from the city.