Dallas Police Watched Body Cam Footage of Jason Harrison Shooting Before Giving Statements
David Harrison, above, is suing the city of Dallas over the death of his brother, Jason.
David Harrison is still waiting to see the footage of Dallas Police Department officers killing his brother. The June shooting death of Jason Harrison, the subject of last week's cover story by Sky Chadde, was the first fatal DPD shooting ever captured on the department's new body camera technology, but police say they can't release the video until after the grand jury proceedings.
While David Harrison says that his mentally ill brother was never a violent person, the DPD says otherwise -- the officers who responded to a 911 call from Jason's mother say that he aggressively came at them with a screwdriver that day, giving them little choice but to shoot.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said he already viewed the body camera footage and that it lines up with the police officers' stories. "We've released specific information about what the officers did, what your loved one did," Brown told Harrison during a September town hall meeting that Chadde reported on. "And we've recounted that the video does corroborate the information that the officers said happened and the information that other witnesses said happened."
But an important fact wasn't mentioned by Brown when he stated that the officers' statements were "corroborated" by the video: The officers were apparently allowed to watch the body cam videos before giving their statements that were corroborated by it, making the chance of the stories lining up become awfully easy. Harrison says he learned this from DPD officers filling him in on the investigation. "Of course he [Chief Brown] left out that before they gave the statement they got to look at it," Harrison told Unfair Park last week.
Asked whether it's true that the officers who shot Jason Harrison got to view the video before giving their statements, a DPD media officer sent over a copy of what they described as "our general orders related to an officer's right to view video evidence prior to giving a statement." The orders similarly state that officers who injure or kill another person on the job are allowed to view any "video evidence" prior to giving an interview.
It's not news that DPD officers involved in shootings get plenty of time and access to evidence before they have to talk. The Dallas Morning News reported over a year ago, in November 2013, that Chief Brown had "quietly changed" the investigative procedure to allow officers to watch any available video of a shooting before they give a statement.
That policy only addresses "video evidence," not body camera footage specifically. David Harrison said he was surprised when the investigators told him that the officers would get to view their own body camera footage prior to giving statements about the shooting. He pointed out that it's the opposite of how investigations are done on crime shows like The First 48. "They ask them the questions first, and then they show them they have the video so they can prove the inconsistency," he says.
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.