Rochester experts on using deadly force, filming police in dangerous situations, privacy, and more.

I spoke to Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson and Rochester Attorney Fred Suhler about a video that’s received a lot of attention nationally.

The following information is taken from this news article.

The video was taken by a man named Narces Benoit in Miami late one May night (about 4am) when police were surrounding a man in a car. It’s not great quality – what you’re seeing is several police officers surrounding a car. Later in the video you’ll see interaction between the video taker and police, including an officer pointing a gun at Benoit and his girlfriend.

In the video you can hear Benoit saying “They’re going to kill this man, oh my God.”
Benoit was right…moments later police shot and killed the man in the car.  Moments after the shooting Benoit
claimed that police took his phone and destroyed it. He says the video was saved because he hid the data card that contained the video before police took his phone.

One important thing to note – there is another video on the web of this event showing the moments preceding this shooting from a rooftop. Someone in that video said he thought the man in the black car had been shooting at people outside his car prior to the police surrounding him.

That sets up this discussion. It’s important to point out that I’m interviewing local legal and law enforcement experts and we are all speculating about how situations like the one in Miami could impact all of us in the future. I brought the story to the attention of Mr. Peterson and Mr. Suhler, and every question I asked them is founded in information I read in another media outlet’s report. I did not interview anyone in Miami for this – and we’re just having a discussion. Mr. Peterson and Mr. Suhler are not speaking from first hand knowledge when it comes to the Miami situation. One big unknown is what happened to Mr. Benoit’s cell phone. According to the article he says police destroyed it, Miami police say they haven’t seen evidence that police destroyed citizens phones. Whether that happened or not – the news story has served to spur a discussion.

Fred Suhler has worked in many roles in his long legal career, including the criminal defense work he does today. Chief Roger Peterson has been with the Rochester (Minnesota) police department for more than 30 years.

Some quick video links:

Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson’s reaction to the Miami video:

Rochester Attorney Fred Suhler’s reaction to the Miami video:

Peterson on one rationale (mentioned in article) by police unions who say bystanders should not be able to record police situations – because it may lead police officers to second-guess themselves if they know they are being recorded, and delay making necessary decisions.

Suhler on situations where people should probably NOT have a right to be filming.

Peterson on what improved camera technologies are allowing police to do which makes them more effective.

Suhler on the trade off between video documentation…and personal privacy…with an interesting bit about something most of us value greatly..our cell phones.

Both Peterson and Suhler say deadly force is a sensitive issue that must, and is, taken very seriously by police officers and departments. Peterson says any time deadly force is used there are many questions to be asked and answered. He says that is what police departments must do.

They both mentioned that camera proliferation has changed the legal system. They say that camera proliferation has led juries to expect camera evidence of crimes, which isn’t always possible.

Peterson says frequent camera use has led to a decrease in allegations of police misconduct. That’s because while in the past people may have alleged police acted inappropriately, now there’s often visual proof of what actually happened in a given situation.

On balance Peterson says that there’s a better quality of evidence than there was in the past – which is a good thing.  But he also stresses that video doesn’t tell the whole story, including in situations like the one in Miami.

Suhler says, as a society we’ll have to decide how much we value our privacy – because more cameras mean less privacy.

For the entire uncut sequence there are 3 files to watch:

(part 1 of 3)
(part 2 of 3)
(part 3 of 3)

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