Mildred K. O'Linn Appears on KPCC Panel, Generates Social Media Buzz
On July 16, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, Manning & Kass partner Mildred K. O'Linn, a recognized expert in the use of force, appeared on a Public Records Panel co-presented by Southern California Public Radio Station KPCC and the First Amendment Coalition. The title of the panel was, "Pulling Back the Blue Curtain" subtitled, "When should we have access to police records?"
Panelists, in addition to Ms. O'Linn, also included Jack Leonard, editor for courts and police at Los Angeles Times; Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition; Jeff Steck, president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs;Neal Tyler, executive officer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; Neal Tyler, executive officer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and Rochelle L. Wilcox, a partner with Davis, Wright, Tremaine LLP. Ms. Wilcox represents the LA Times in their effort to gain access to police records.
Mr. Scheer explained his organization's commitment to open records by saying, "The larger issue we're here to talk about," He stated, "is democracy ... Democracy only works if the people are able to hold their elected officials accountable. And accountability requires transparency on the part of government."
The panel was moderated by KPCC reporter Frank Stoltze. Mr. Stolze framed the discussion not in terms of appropriate use of force, but rather about when it is appropriate to release footage of such incidents to the general public.
The debate was prompted in part by video of a 2013 Gardena police shooting that was ordered released by a federal judge this week, and shown again to the Forum audience.
After the video screening, Ms. O'Linn informed the audience that prior to the ruling, the City of Gardena had already settled the matter and a protective order was in place."It wasn't about this video, it was about the process and the procedures." The details of the incident, she states, were never hidden from the public. "The video was sealed because it was part of the protective order."
"Technology is way ahead of the law," she continued. "We need rules. We need guidelines. Otherwise, every Body Worn Camera across the United States is going to be the feed for a reality tv show."
Throughout the evening, the firm's Twitter account received a flurry of @mentions linked to the hashtag #publicrecords. Ms. O'Linn argued in favor of public safety, safety for police personnel, and privacy concerns. "Mildred O'Linn @ManningKass is tough," was retweeted several times.
Mr. Steck told the audience that they would have more sympathy for officers if all Body Cam videos were released. "We see you on your worst days. We don't see you on your best days."
Legal issues discussed included California Public Records Act and concomitant public disclosure exemptions versus the First Amendment. Technical and financial issues discussed included the cost of managing large amounts of video data and blurring faces as well as the cost to the public as well as insurers incurred by plaintiff's cases.
"This whole program," said Mr. Tyler, "is about balance." As Body Worn Cameras, cell phone tapings, and public appetite for "real" "infotainment" increases, it remains to be seen how public policy will be shaped to protect officers and public alike, while still respecting Constitutional rights.
To view the complete program, click here to visit the KPCC website audio archive.