Sneak preview

The Portland police released a video yesterday of one of their officers shooting a man to death at the Motel 6 on Grand Avenue the night before. In the video, you can see an officer draw his gun; then the man charges at the officer holding what police say was a sharpened screwdriver; then the officer shoots him, fatally as it turns out.

With the release of the video, the cops identified the shooter as officer Curtis Brown. It wasn't until a day later that they identified the dead guy, Michael Ray Townsend. He was 40 years old. They had a mug shot of him from one of his earlier arrests, and so of course they released that, too.

Why have the cops been so transparent, so quickly? Obviously, because they think the shooter was right. They think the video justifies what he did. And it dispels some stories circulating around that the victim was Black, and running away from the police.

But does the video actually show that the officers acted properly? Why didn't they try tasing the guy first? Or shooting him with one of their "less lethal" bullets that can put your eye out? There were at least six uniformed officers standing there.

I'm sure there will be pat answers to all of that.

But the fast release of the video is noteworthy, because this is what the Portland cops want to do with body camera video, if they ever get body cams. When they think it exonerates them, it will be all over the internet right away. When it shows that the cops were in the wrong, it will be hidden until they decide that the "investigation" is complete. Which means you may never see it.

It's not clear who took the video that the police have released in the Townsend case. It looks like cell phone video taken by someone standing on a motel balcony. But when they get their body cams, which is inevitable, Portland has to be sure that the cops don't get to play their games with the resulting footage. Prompt availability to the public must be assured, regardless of whether the video is good or bad. And not having the camera on at all times while on duty must be a fireable offense.




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