NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Body cameras have become popular in law enforcement over the last few years, helping build transparency between community members and officers.
But while investigating a police misconduct case in June, Jill Fitcheard, the executive director of the Community Oversight Board, said some recordings were tampered with.
"You can see that there was the removal of a section of the body-worn camera footage. It was done very skillfully. You wouldn't be able to tell it if you're just watching it continuously," she said.
During a COB meeting last month, Metro Police officials initially said one person was responsible for deleting swearing out of videos.
MNPD said that the employee used to work for the Metro Nashville Network, where deleting profanity was standard practice.
"I just want to make sure that you understand it wasn't intentional. This was just a real oversight of this person and these job duties and not understanding that they can't do that for these type of videos," said a police officer during the meeting.
Board Member Michael Milliner questions whether MNPD is calling the deletion of BWC video footage “redactions” or “edits” and based on the presumption of correctness, he calls it correctly:EDITED. The BWC footage was not redacted, it was edited and then deleted entirely. pic.twitter.com/90lrxscHuq— Metro Nashville Community Oversight (@MNCONashville) August 10, 2022
But after conducting an investigation, MNPD said it was actually two employees violating policy. That raises questions for Fitcheard.
"Usually when people use profanity, they are escalated in some sort of way. And so I don't know if there were any other issues that were connected to the profanity. For instance, if someone was using racial slurs or if they were saying anything, that was negative about gender," Fitcheard said.
It's unknown how many videos were edited, but MNPD said swearing from all parties was cut, not just officers.
The employees have been reprimanded, but for the sake of transparency, Fitcheard said the COB needs more answers and is asking for an external review.
The COB will meet on Monday to discuss further actions they want to see from MNPD to protect transparency.
INVESTIGATION: @MNPDNashville is recommending training for all employees who work in the public records unit after two employees violated policy by altering body camera video.— Araceli Crescencio NC5 (@aracelireports) August 11, 2022
More tonight @NC5. pic.twitter.com/3qOgKJAIMR
MNPD said moving forward all video that is edited will have clear labels and disclaimers. The department is also recommending more training for the Public Records Unit.