By Kelsey Ryan
The city of Wichita has denied a request to release a police body camera recording from the shooting of a teenager on Friday, saying that it is part of an ongoing investigation.
The Wichita Eagle requested the video along with other records on Saturday as part of its reporting on the shooting.
A 17-year-old West High student was shot by Wichita police. Police say he was armed and running toward the police officer who fired.
His mother says on Facebook that her son was "unarmed and shot in the back while running." The shooting was captured on camera.
In October, the city announced its new body camera recording policy, along with the requirements for recordings to be released as open records.
The city is in the process of deploying body cameras for more than 400 patrol officers at an estimated cost of about $2.2 million. Part of that is paid by grants.
The new Police Department policy states:
"The Wichita Police Department is committed to the ideal that it exists to serve the interests of its citizens. Toward that goal, it is the City of Wichita's mission and intent to create and maintain open and transparent government, including the release of videos beyond the necessary requirements of state law....
To accomplish the mission of open and transparent government, the Wichtia Police Department has created this policy. Consistent with the City's existing approach to Open Records, it is the City's intent to aid those who are seeking information in a manner that favors compliance with requests, within the boundaries of state and federal law."
City leaders have consistently said they support the use of body cameras as a way to increase transparency of police actions.
Mayor Jeff Longwell said that in this case, the decision not to release the video is left to District Attorney Mark Bennett because he is considering whether to charge the teen.
Wichita police have released a still photo from the video that they said shows the teen holding a gun, along with other photos from the scene. "Releasing the still (photo) isn't even close to the same level as releasing the video," Longwell said.
Bennett said his office will decide whether to charge the teen later this week or early next week.
It's important to treat the body camera recording like any other piece of evidence in a case, Bennett said, and law enforcement is trying to balance the public's interest in what happened with the potential defendant's rights.
"The constitutional rights of the defendent in these situations is the most important," he said. "We're going to have to assess these on a case-by-case basis."
Longwell said that, like other policies, the new body camera policy is subject to change.
"We'll certainly look at it as the document continues to evolve so we can best address the community needs moving foward," Longwell said. "It's a good step in trying to be transparent in everything we do."
(c)2015 The Wichita Eagle