The Sacramento City Council late Tuesday ordered police to release video from a February shooting between officers and a parolee in North Sacramento as quickly as possible, despite an argument from the department that it needed more time to review the footage.
The unanimous order by council members came after interim police Chief Brian Louie asked for – and was denied – a waiver to withhold 23 videos for up to 60 days while the department continued its investigation into a Feb. 10 encounter with Armani Sicilian Lee.
The Lee incident is the first shooting of a civilian by police since the city enacted a new policy requiring that video in “critical incidents” be released within 30 days of the event unless police are granted a waiver.
Lee, 28, allegedly exchanged gunfire with three officers who were attempting to detain him on a side street off Del Paso Boulevard. Lee was injured and hospitalized. He recovered and is being held without bail in the Sacramento County Main Jail, facing several felony charges, including three counts of attempted murder. No officers were shot in the encounter.
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Louie said he made a mistake by not reviewing the video at the start of the investigation in part because he did not realize police faced a 30-day deadline for its release.
“I claim responsibility,” Louie said of the delay.
Louie said detectives are still building a case against Lee and that the “seriousness” and “complexity” of the investigation required more time before video was released to ensure none of it could affect the case. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office also wrote a letter asking that the videos be withheld from the public.
Louie said investigators “just haven’t had the opportunity to review all that video in detail,” and wanted to “err on the side of caution.”
But council members said an ongoing investigation was not enough of a reason for a waiver. Councilman Jay Schenirer characterized the district attorney’s request as “basically a form letter” that could apply to any investigation.
Councilman Allen Warren, one of the main authors of the video release policy, said, “If we can’t release video in this case, I don’t know when we would be able to release video.”
Louie said the videos of the Lee event were 16 minutes each, for a total of about six hours. The videos are on an internal police department system and only 16 of them have been downloaded for the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability to review. Three videos so far have been reviewed.
Louie said the department lacked the staff and technology to review and edit the videos. The city blurs the faces of officers and bystanders, but does not have equipment to blur moving video, police said.
While council members agreed the video should be released, they couldn’t agree on how much extra time was reasonable to allow the department to edit the footage.
Ultimately, the council decided not to put a time frame on the release, but Steinberg said it should be done “as soon as humanly possible.”
Councilman Larry Carr said police “are on the clock. They have already missed the deadline,” and Councilwoman Angelique Ashby warned it would be a “problem” if the release took more than two weeks.
Police are also expected to release additional video of the April shooting of Dazion Flenaugh by officers in response to a Public Records Act request by The Sacramento Bee. The department has been editing that footage for more than three months.
Earlier in the meeting, the council approved a onetime pay bump for Sacramento officers to help with retention. Sacramento pays lower wages than many surrounding law enforcement agencies, and currently has about 100 officers less than before the recession, Steinberg said.
On March 28, officers will find a $2,150 bonus in their paychecks. Police sergeants will receive $2,000 and dispatchers will get $1,000. The payments will cost the city $1.37 million.
Steinberg earlier in the day called the bonuses “deserved” and a show of “goodwill” as the union and city begin new contract negotiations next week.