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MOU draft suggests MNPD gets approval from District Attorney before releasing body cam footage

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Posted at 6:36 PM, Aug 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-19 22:45:48-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A newly drafted Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has some saying it may complicate the process of releasing body camera footage to the public.

It’s only a draft at this point, but Jill Fitcheard says this could change the way we access body camera footage in the future.

Fitcheard is the Executive Director of the Metro Nashville Community Oversight Board and one of few on the shortlist for who sees this footage first according to Metro policy.

The Critical Incident Video Release policy says that before body camera footage is released within 72 hours to the media/public, the office of Public Affairs coordinates to notify the following:

  • Criminal Investigations Division Commander
  • Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
  • Office of Professional Accountability Director
  • Metro Nashville Community Oversight Executive Director or Assistant Director

If possible, the following are also notified before release:

  • MNPD Executive Staff
  • Involved officer or counsel
  • Fraternal Order of Police
  • Family or relatives of persons who had force used on them

Metro Nashville Police say they post a portion of these videos “in good faith” to the community so we know brief details about what happened. The entire video is only available to the public through a public record request, and only if it’s not tied to an ongoing investigation.

The final authority for releasing footage linked to a critical incident video remains with the Chief of Police or an authorized official.

The newly drafted MOU first reported by the Tennesseean suggests that the DA’s office will have to be consulted first. Fitcheard said her concern is this will likely cause delays and even raise doubts as to the transparency of the process.

“I think that as long as the information that’s being released does not hinder their investigation, I don’t see why it would have to go to a second layer or third layer,” Fitcheard said.

There have been seven officer-involved shootings in Metro Nashville in 2021. Six were captured on body camera and more often than not, released to the public within a day.

A 2017 MOU between Metro Nashville Police and the DA’s office stated all audio/video and 911 calls had to first get approval before they were shared. As it turns out, it doesn’t apply to body cameras which only became widely available for officers this summer. This new draft would update what’s on the books if it’s ever signed. For now, it’s just a draft that Fitcheard says we can probably do without.

“It shouldn’t lag on for six, seven, eight months. As long as we’re getting the information quickly and it’s readily available to us, I think the process is functioning the way that it is,” Fitcheard said.

The DA’s office sent us the following statement:

“Without any MOU to the contrary, MNPD does not have to get our approval and we do not have any input into how the video is presented or released.”