When the chief of the Ferguson Police Department finally bowed to the law that said yes, the public does get to know which one of their officers shot an unarmed teen resident of the town dead in the middle of a residential street, you may recall his muddled press conference on the matter. It dealt with the release of the name that town residents had been demanding as an afterthought; the bulk of the episode was devoted to releasing the police records of an alleged burglary by Brown, including videotape, that even the ruddy chief himself had to soon admit had nothing to do with the shooting whatsoever, as far as anyone knew. But he was insistent. Even though it seemed a petty move, he was required by law to release them, and the chief of the Ferguson Police Department is nothing if not a stickler for public-records laws
"We’ve had this tape for a while, and we had to diligently review the information that was in the tape, determine if there was any other reason to keep it,” Jackson said at the press event. “We got a lot of Freedom of Information requests for this tape, and at some point it was just determined we had to release it. We didn’t have good cause, any other reason not to release it under FOI."
Those records have themselves now been made public, and guess what? It was a lie.
Follow below the fold for more.
[A] review of open records requests sent to the Ferguson Police Department found that no news organization, reporter or individual specifically sought the release of the surveillance tape before police distributed it on Aug. 15. [...]
The logs contradict Jackson’s claim that “a lot” of reporters had specifically “asked for” the robbery surveillance tape through open records requests before his agency released the footage.
There was one reporter who issued a broad request for evidence "leading up to" the shooting, but we can discount that as the rationale for releasing the tapes because, as reporter Matthew Keys notes, the department still continued to withhold all other records "leading up to" the shooting, including "9-1-1 call recordings and police dispatch tapes"—which would seemingly be far more routine things to release, and unambiguously pertinent. Nevertheless, when the time came to release information about the shooting, the only thing "released" was that tape.
The Department of Justice had asked the Ferguson police department not to distribute a copy of the surveillance tape, according to a report by NBC News. DOJ officials confirmed they had a copy of the tape, but said they never considered releasing it, NBC said.
So yes, it looks now like the releasing of the tape meant to paint Michael Brown as a "thug" worth killing was, indeed, the calculated decision of the Ferguson chief of police. The press conference was to name the officer; instead we got the tape. The press conference was meant as a begrudging concession to laws that required law enforcement to release information about a shooting by one of their officers; instead, we got the tape. The networks may have gotten 911 audio from residents reporting what had happened to play over and over on their newscasts; instead, they got a different tape to play, and the conversation around the tape, every time, was whether it proved that the shooting of Michael Brown was, justified or not, no great loss.
That conversation continues to go on, as racist and race-baiting muckrakers continue to query whether Brown's supposed thuggishness showed up as a juvenile record (it didn't), or whether had been gunned down while in a drug rage (marijuana has been the only thing pinned to him, and if we are gunning down marijuana users now America will be a sparsely populated place indeed, once we are done with it.) The point of the tape was to suggest that even though there was no evidence that Brown had done anything that would have required executing him, it was something that we should imagine anyway. American pundits hardly needed it, but it provided a lovely little perch. Look at how big the teenager was. He may not have been armed, but he was big, and he was black, and Fox News was easily able to find a voice that would say being those two things was itself a form of being armed, and dangerous, and therefore worthy of two bullets to the head.
But now we know, for a fact, that Police Chief Thomas Jackson straight-up lied about it. He may have been facing off against protesting residents in the streets, he may have been facing off against laws that required him release other information, but the "hey, may have been a thug" tape was the thing he made ample copies of and distributed to all the waiting pens and cameras and microphones. He lied.
What do we even do about that? Does he get fired? Considering the buffoonish, Keystone Cops with Tanks response to the almost entirely peaceful protests in the neighborhood, it would seem that a goodly chunk of St. Louis area law enforcement leaders ought to have been canned already, but we haven't seen it yet. We've at least established that pointing your rifle at any random protester or reporter and threatening to kill them is still considered a fireable offense, thank goodness, but rank leadership incompetence seems as well-protected in St. Louis as it is everywhere else. Chief Thomas Jackson personally stood in front of a microphone and chose to make things worse, and he said it was because his hands were tied, but they weren't. He just wanted to do it.