“Nearly six years after Arkansas police Officer Jonathan Schmidt was shot to death while pleading for his life,” policeone.com reports, “a dashcam video of his final moments still circulates on the internet — sometimes landing in the social media feeds of his family members. ‘It’s a very sacred thing,’ the officer’s widow, Andrea Schmidt, said. ‘It’s not just a cop getting killed. This is a human being. This is my husband. This is a father.'”

Based on the video, Republican Arkansas state Rep. Jimmy Gazaway — the prosecutor who put Officer Schmidt’s killer in jail — introduced House Bill 1236.

The law would prohibit “the broad release of material showing officers dying in the line of duty.”

Any such video would only be released to the general public if there’s a public interest. Even then it would only be shown in a public setting, not released to the media and, inevitably, posted on YouTube. According to the bill’s text:

Absent a compelling public interest, or the necessity to evaluate a law enforcement officer’s conduct, or an official purpose such as a criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding or an official investigation into a law enforcement officer’s death, the disclosure of an audio or visual depiction of the death of a law enforcement officer would have little value to the public other than to satisfy a morbid curiosity concerning the death of a law enforcement officer.

The bill passed the Arkansas House by a margin of 94-0. The Arkansas senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill. It’s expected to pass in the senate as a whole and land on the Governor’s desk shortly.

What’s your take? Should the public have unlimited access to all police dashcam and bodycam videos? Or should the suffering of survivors govern a judge’s decision on the video’s release?

Recommended For You

62 Responses to Question of the Day: Does The Public Have a Right to See Videos of Police Officers Killed in the Line of Duty?

  1. ‘It’s a very sacred thing,’ the officer’s widow, Andrea Schmidt, said. ‘It’s not just a cop getting killed. This is a human being. This is my husband. This is a father.’”

    Now replace “cop” with “plumber”, “lawyer”, etc.

    Proceed accordingly. Cops are not on a higher level of humanity than anyone else.

    • I concur. Unless there is a compelling public interest aside from ghoulish curiosity, the murder of a human being isn’t something anyone should want to watch.

      • Authentic psychology, human action, etc, in writing and filmography, is one reason that crossed my mind. It may be fucked up, but content creators do reference such things when the need arises…

        Educational value in the line of policing and military on what not to do, etc.

        Not to mention its a very bad precedent to censor something because someone gets their feelings hurt, or someone else finds the content objectionable, or someone doesn’t agree with the opinions in it, or someone…

        • I agree not to censor something that actually could serve as a training aid for future cops. Hard as it is to watch.

          But for the soul less amongst us that would send such a video to the victims family”s social media simply to cause pain? Censoring them at the very least is acceptable. We can discuss more strident moves against such pukes.

        • @jwm, much like gun laws, I think we already have the needed legislation to deal with those situations on the books. If prosecutors were interested in charging the sender with harrassment (admittedly difficult in a global arena, but such is life) or IIED, if appropriate.

          That being said, should the family of a punk have the same right to not have their departed’s wrongdoing shoved in their faces? The family wasn’t the wrongdoer, it was the individual.

        • Katy, nobody should have to go thru opening up their facebook page and seeing a video of their loved one being murdered. Regardless of who the victim is. This sort of behaviour degrades us all and creates more victims.

  2. While I feel badly for families that may experience distress, I fall firmly on the “Public’s Right to know”. Unless it compromises an on-going court case or investigation it should be available upon request. (and in the cases of compromise, once that compromising interest is over it should be released).

  3. Several two word responses come to mind: chilling effect, slippery slope, camel’s nose under the tent.

      • Yes, even peeing. Body cam footage of cops peeing, locker room talking, etc that has been erroneously recorded has shown up in court and has been deemed admissible in MTS hearings. So again, yes, peeing too.

  4. FOIA, or are they going to try and come up with a “reasonable” exception in court? I think that the goverment putting restrictions on FOIA laws based on “public interest” is a extremely bad idea.

    • The federal FOIA only applies to the federal government, not the states.

      The states enact their own laws in terms of releasing information. Here the legislature is amending its state FOIA laws to exclude a specific type of information.

  5. It’s a bad idea to withhold information from public viewing. Even though I have great compassion for the family, this bill is misguided.

    As for me, I’m not into online rubbernecking so I have no reason to watch anyone being murdered.

    • If it should be available for public viewing then only for private viewing where the video is located no mass media. If an individual feels the need or reporters can go there watch and report on it.

      • “If it should be available for public viewing then only for private viewing”

        It can’t be public and private at the same time. That would be unpossible or something.

        • The phrasing is bad, but I think he means that it should be viewable somehow (i.e. turn up to the county office or court house to watch it) but not released into the wild with no control.

          If you have a good reason to REALLY want to watch it, you can – but there is no need to make it so easy that any bubba with the internet can watch it in their basement.

  6. Whether the public has a right to know is irrelevant. Basic human decency should tell you don’t even ask. There is nothing, including sex, that is more intimate than a person’s deatn.

    • The public’s right to know is the entire point here. Or haven’t you been paying attention to your government overlords? Making decisions based on emotion is dangerous and leads to all sorts of, ah, liberal ideology.

      • How to miss the moral point. There are a lot of things that you have the right to do that from a moral perspective you would not do. That fact that we are having this discussion in an indication of how far down the toilet we have gone.

        • I didn’t miss it. I just don’t agree with it. I’m objective about where it might lead and weigh the cost benefit. You apparently need to feelz or something.

  7. Up to the family. It should be the same if a cop or other person kills another. The deceased family’s should have the say. If they don’t want footage of it all over the media fine. But it should be available for private viewing at the police station that has the evidence if it is in fact evidence.

  8. If its ok to show video of an officer killing an innocent person the its ok to show an officer getting killed.

    • It would seem that most videos of officers shooting people have been either been filmed by the public, and thus outside the control of the authorities, or have been released to the public to give the full story if such shootings are controversial.

      Unless the officer’s death elicits public controversy (hardly ever), your an attorney, journalist, citizen who’d like to drive down to the DA’s office and watch it (because it does involve a public official), or you’re a trainee who might be in a similar situation, there’s no good reason to release such videos.

    • Huh? Do you really need someone to explain how the public’s need to know about a government official using deadly force on an innocent person eclipses the public’s need to fulfill some morbid voyeurism of watching someone die?

      Do you also need someone to explain how to tie your shoes?

  9. If we do not learn from our mistakes we are doomed to repeat them. If the video of an officer’s murder teaches one person not to make the same mistake in their life, it will be worth it.

    • That might apply to officers in training who have to deal with such possibilities on a daily basis. But I don’t see how that’s a compelling reason for the general public to view it.

      • The value is comes from the fact that many citizens don’t understand how dangerous it is for officers when they pull a car over. Consequently, when officers are giving strong commands, and expect people to show their hands, get out of the car, etc., many folks think the cops are just being dicks.

    • My thoughts exactly. I get no weird thrill (I don’t scour the internet to see dead people), and I sympathize with the family, but hopefully something can be learned so bring it on.

  10. I’m inclined to think there is more to see a cop (public servant) as opposed to a private citizen.

    So make it all illegal and shut down the Internet.

  11. We should have the right to speedy release to the general public of all government videos and files. If a government employee can access files on citizens, then citizens should be able to access and distribute files on government employees.

    • As you see here, the gun hicks wave the flag and bellow about their “freedom” but as soon as it comes to discussing police they degenerate into squawking fairies that can’t make enough excuses for police behavior.

      These NRA losers are why we have an unlimited privacy waiver and Duty to Inform in Illinois’ concealed carry bill. The gun hicks not so secretly love to fantasize that they are “on the same side” as the police and automatically defend everything cops do. The last time they read the Constitution was in high school, if they didn’t flunk out by freshman year.

  12. There should be full and immediate disclosure, unless it compromises a pending investigation. Even then, there should be a time limit by which it gets released regardless. The burden should be on the government to get a court order barring immediate release. There should be severe criminal penalties for altering or destroying these records.

    • 110% on everything here. If the cop is driving a take-home car as so many do, and the tank is filled with gas the taxpayer pays for, then there really is no debate is there? How many times have you seen news reports on TV or the paper where a cop is arrested, but his picture is not shown?

      If Joe Average gets a DUI they put his picture and home address in the news. Police have become skilled at manipulating information, but now they pose as victims. Interacting with cops to sort truth from lies requires the skill of an exorcist.

      “There should be severe criminal penalties for altering or destroying these records.”

      Illinois’ 2015 SB1304 Body Cam bill has no penalties for destroying evidence or sabotaging the cams. Only two of five cameras on scene were “working” when Laquan McDonald was shot by Chicago police.

      State senator Kwame Raoul was chairman of the committee that ran the Body Cam bill, and the police unions pressured him to make deleting vids a “departmental charge.”
      Translation: if it makes the cops look bad, they delete the vid and don’t go to jail. If it makes you look bad, you can be sure the vid will be shown in court or leaked to the media.

      As we speak NRA state lobbyist for Illinois Todd Vandermyde is colluding with Kwame Raoul on a “repeat offender” “penalty enhancement” gun bill in Springfield. Once again the NRA lobbyist selling out to anti-gun politicians and police unions. There is a special circle in hell for traitors and rats.

  13. Absolutely not! Police officers aren’t any more sacred than the rest of us. Should release of an officer’s shooting be censored? No more than images of an officer shooting me!
    They’re PUBLIC servants performing PUBLIC duties, subject to no privacy. That public role demands transparency in a free society.
    Any time you begin censoring public inspection of the actions if a government organization that exerts the level of authority and control over the public, you start down a dark path of precedent that can be extended to cloak more than just one thing. There’ s no such thing as limited censorship. Would you have them hide a video of a police officer shot after murdering several others? Shot while beating a child? Cops are human and yes they’ve done both those things and more. On duty and off.

    • If you get a DUI, the police will release your photo to the local rag to brand you with the scarlet letter.

      If a cop kills a motorist in a traffic accident, the press release doesn’t mention the name of the motorist, and no breathalyzer test or blood draw is performed on the cop at the scene. I’ve seen this exact thing happen. Cops are masters of manipulation, especially with the media. They prey on the emotions of the public to deflect attention from those they harm, then pose as victims.

  14. i dont see how it doesn’t qualify as a snuff film actually. i can see both sides, its hard not to. I don’t get why they just don’t release the video and just stop it right before he is killed. you would still get the point and still be able to evaluate his tactics and if errors were made on his part. but so many people now are just incapable of rational thought. they just let pieces of paper tell them how to think. Are we ever going to evolve past this???? why is it that everyone these days only works in absolute extremes. This isn’t a dichotomy. There are more options rather than just “release in its entirety or not at all” i DESPISE that type of thinking. Why are people so intellectually lazy these days?
    If we just put 5 minutes of thought into it, you can easily come to a reasonable decision that will appease BOTH sides. THAT is how you compromise. Not just making other people deal with your decision, that is in no way a compromise. Just a dictatorship which we are supposed to be against.

    • Don’t show the officer’s death because he’s someone’s son, brother, husband, etc and it’s hard to watch ?

      I had to watch all those gory driver’s education films in highschool that showed someone’s family member ripped to pieces. Some of them still alive and screaming. It’s okay, though because the dead victims weren’t cops and it was “educational”.

  15. The public has an absolute right to see all government documents and recordings*.

    Dash or body camera video of someone killing a police officer is important material that we need to see. Perhaps the police officer was going to illegally execute the person-of-interest and that person was merely trying to save their own life. Without seeing the video for ourselves, however, the police could conceal that fact and whip the public into a frenzy in an effort to apprehend or even justify killing the person-of-interest.

    * For obvious reasons, a limited number of documents and recordings must remain confidential for bona fide national security reasons. And even then, a limited subset of the public must be able to review that information for government watchdog purposes.

  16. Nope, either fully ban something or not, the Government shouldn’t be able to decided who gets to watch what, and hoard everything for themselves. If it has value to keep an officer alive and they can learn from it, then so can others, it has value to civilians as well. I’m so sick of the double standards, something is illegal or it’s not, that needs to be across the board.

    Nobody is forcing anyone to watch it, including the family. There are plenty of things I don’t want to watch, let’s ban those too so I don’t get offended, O’ but I reserve the right to watch what I want and have a copy of it, because I am the authority. Give me a break.

    This is a very slippery slope, and at no time should evidence of anything be held from us, that’s hiding evidence. They can get by with anything because nobody can see what happened before hand. Cop breaks down your door unannounced in the middle of the night on a no knock warrant and has it wrong, innocent citizen shoots him and he dies, innocent citizen can’t prove his innocents because the video footage has been gotten rid of, is illegal and can’t be used in court.

    There are videos of Soldiers being hanged and dragged through the streets, and I don’t see nobody saying ban those do you? There are videos of regular people getting killed, I don’t see anyone saying ban those too, do you? I’m sorry, but as an ex soldier in a Combat Arms MOS, I can tell you that comes with the job, same for a Cop.

    This is how information is controlled and fabricated, they can say anything, make up anything, then just say we can’t show you video proof citizens, that’s illegal, but trust us, this is how it went down. There is public value in keeping the free flow of information outside of some sick individual that gets off on watching people die. The full truth about what happened is valuable, and people other than the Cop that lost his life, their lives may also be at risk. If they can hide video and other evidence, this is a danger to us all.

    I’m sorry and feel bad for anyone’s family that their loved ones died, but that’s life. I fail to see how suppressing evidence from the public hinders a police investigation either, in fact, I can see how it can help. If you have nothing to hide, then don’t hide anything, simple as that.

    • “There are videos of Soldiers being hanged and dragged through the streets, and I don’t see nobody saying ban those do you?”

      Police constantly attempt to manipulate the emotions of the masses that are stupid enough to buy into their lies about how hard it is to be a cop. Police are not even in the top ten list of fatalities from the Labor Department. Fishermen and farmers have more dangerous jobs, and you don’t hear them whining about it all the time either.

      “I’m sorry, but as an ex soldier in a Combat Arms MOS, I can tell you that comes with the job, same for a Cop.”

      One of the most insidious trends to come about in the past few years is cops attempting to compare their jobs with that of soldiers. Now they are trying to morph Memorial Day to “remember our first responders.” That’s an insult to anyone who ever wore a (real) uniform.

  17. For those of us willing to fight for our lives against an assailant, such videos provide valuable education. They show us what happens during a gun fight, without our getting into one, and let us learn from the participants’ experience.

  18. I have to come down on the side of “no” when it comes to censorship.

    I have two main reasons for that.

    The first is that, as others have noted, these are government employees paid, trained and equipped on the taxpayer dime. If any of that is ineffective then it’s the public’s duty to oversee the situation and remedy it by demanding that things change. That can’t happen if the public is denied access to the facts. Mark this under “prevention of informational incest”.

    Secondly, willful blindness towards the evil in this world doesn’t make the bad things go away. I’m not suggesting that people be required to watch such a video but they certainly shouldn’t banned from seeing it. The real world is a brutish and nasty place and that fact isn’t changed by not seeing the real nastiness humans are capable of. As awful as it is there will nearly always be something that can be learned from a video like this. What works, what doesn’t, ques people give, what it really looks like when someone goes for a weapon etc.

    I take no joy in watching seriously twisted shit and I hold no ill will towards the families of the victims. However, in a world where Shia LaBeouf’s silly little flag can be found in a remote area of Tennessee in matter of hours via live streaming of aircraft contrails and the work is done by 4chan users I would respectfully submit that we can learn something from even the most graphic videos life might produce.

  19. Couple of things here:
    1. I don’t see how this withstands a challenge in court (that whole censorship and first amendment thing).
    2. Should this be somewhat limited, yes it should be (probably including some FCC actions).
    3. A public review is kind of a cornerstone of how we do this in this country, so there has to be some way to look over the film.

  20. I vote NO on censorship, even if the ideas or reality being shown is abhorrent to me. I also vote no on watching such things.

  21. My family lost a member who was shot and killed in the line of duty while investigating a break in. Thankfully, it was not caught on camera (the murderer was caught). We would hate to have publicly-viewable video of such a painful, tragic event available to internet rubberneckers.

    For all of the “Public has a right” arguments, I think the truth is that most people just want to satisfy morbid curiosity.

    • Sorry for your your loss, but I don’t give two good flyin’s about what you hate, or that it’s painful. Welcome to grown-up life. It’s messy, and it hurts sometimes.

      Regardless, it is a binary choice. You either ban every death video ever (good luck with that), or you trust that most people still have the good taste, and compassion not to send you copies in your Facebook feed. Making one class of public servants exempt from the reality that the rest of us live with is wholly unacceptable and against the American ideal.

      • “Sorry for your your loss, but I don’t give two good flyin’s about what you hate, or that it’s painful. Welcome to grown-up life. It’s messy, and it hurts sometimes.”

        Based on your qualifier, my guess is that you are one of those who get his jollies off of this stuff.

  22. Miss Schmidt, and all other family-members of police who have fallen in the line of duty, I am very sorry for your loss and very thankful for your family’s work in ensuring law & order.

    I likewise understand why you wouldn’t want to see your loved one’s final moments, though personally I might feel otherwise (I have never been in that sort of situation, thankfully, despite having had police relatives).

    Here’s my question for you: If the police told you “We’re using your husband’s final moments as a training aid, to help keep future officers safe”, would you object?

    If it could help to keep anyone from suffering the same loss your family did, police or otherwise, I think that they should be allowed to watch the video. That’s in no way meant to suborn harassment against yourself or your family in any way, electronic or otherwise, but I don’t think that banning the release of the videos is necessarily a good thing.

    • If I recall correctly, police criminal and now convicted murderer Drew Peterson was allowed to watch an interview of persons concerning the disappearance of his first wife conducted by another police department as a “professional courtesy.” His status as a cop helped him evade justice for a period of time.

      “Professional courtesy” covers many police crimes, everything from flashing a badge to get out of a ticket in another jurisdiction, to destroying or planting evidence on behalf of other cops to influence a case.

      • Michelle O’Connell’s murderer was “investigated” by his own department. A state investigator who stated to the media that her death (caused by two gunshots to the head) was not a suicide was then fired for “leaking information”.

        Government privilege sure is grand.

  23. It would be a terrible thing to have to experience but dang, why are they so special? We know these days that there are scumbags who would show videos like deaths JUST to upset police families. It sucks but not something to legislate.
    We’ve been watching people burning up in a falling Zeppelin for YEARS now, no one gave a dam about their poor families.

  24. Nope! Releasing of this videos MUST be strictly prohibited for MANY reasons:
    1. OPSEC. Criminals WILL learn from this videos how to KILL more cops (and regular people). And yes, they have a lot of persons who are able to analyze vids and create tactics that will exploit cops tactics from videos.
    2. This is PRIVATE thing. Cops (and they families) are not stripped from constitutional rights by signing contract. Period.
    3. To many people LOVES gore and suffering of people. Especially cops. There is no reasons to feed them.
    4. Ideology and psychology. In fact releasing of such videos it is PSYOP war against law enforcement and laws. And yes, loosing such war will lead to more dead cops and more violence (and another crimes) against regular people. This vids lifts very important bans from human psyche (i.e. “it is ok to kill cops and make them suffering” and “cops are not invincible, it is possible to kill them and people around by agressive actions, and they cant protect themselfs”, “not only cops have right to (lawful) violence”, etc). So it is not only loosing of “image”, this is loosing of some critical things that merges and unites society together. So when this stuff will lifting from peoples, and even criminals, mentality – society will be dead very fast. No monopoly of violence – no society at all.
    5… 6… 7… X…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *