DNAinfo Chicago reports:
Why are so many police dashcam videos silent? Chicago Police Department officers stashed microphones in their squad car glove boxes. They pulled out batteries. Microphone antennas got busted or went missing. And sometimes, dashcam systems didn’t have any microphones at all, DNAinfo Chicago has learned.
Police officials last month blamed the absence of audio in 80 percent of dashcam videos on officer error and “intentional destruction.” A DNAinfo Chicago review of more than 1,800 police maintenance logs sheds light on the no-sound syndrome plaguing Police Department videos — including its most notorious dashcam case.
Maintenance records of the squad car used by Jason Van Dyke, who shot and killed Laquan McDonald, and his partner, Joseph Walsh, show monthslong delays for two dashcam repairs, including a long wait to fix “intentional damage.” On June 17, 2014, police technicians reported fixing a dashcam wiring issue in police vehicle No. 6412, the squad shared by Van Dyke and Walsh, about three months after it was reported broken, records show.
A day later, the same vehicle’s dashcam system was reported busted again. It took until Oct. 8, 2014, to complete repairs of what technicians deemed “intentional damage,” according to reports. Just 12 days later, on Oct. 20, 2014, dashcam video recorded from squad car No. 6412 on the night Van Dyke shot and killed McDonald did not record audio. The video that went viral showing Van Dyke killing Laquan was taken from a different squad car, but it, too, had no audio.
The Washington Post is demanding answers:
This isn’t a few bad apples. It’s 80 percent. Why haven’t these officers been prosecuted? Several years ago, a woman named Tiawanda Moore tried to file a report of alleged sexual assault by a Chicago PD officer. When the internal affairs officers with whom she was trying to file the complaint began to intimidate her, Moore began recording the conversation with her cellphone. Under Illinois law at the time, it was a felony to record a police officer without his or her permission.
That law has since been struck down, but Anita Alvarez, the state’s attorney for Cook County who had the power and discretion to decline to prosecute given the circumstances, pushed ahead and attempted to put Moore in prison. Her office did the same with Chicago artist Christopher Drew. Moore was eventually acquitted, in what was almost certainly an act of jury nullification.
So where has Alvarez’s office been here? In December, Alvarez called the lack of audio in the Laquan McDonald video “frustrating” but added that “that’s something I believe the Police Department has to address.” For good measure, she said, “we would prefer to have the audio.”
That’s it? “We would prefer to have the audio”? At minimum, intentionally destroying dash-cam equipment is destruction of public property. You could argue that it’s also tampering with or destroying evidence, particularly if there’s proof that it was done after a shooting or other major incident.