GLENDALE, AZ — For more than six months, ABC15 waited for Glendale police to release a controversial officer’s body camera videos from past use-of-force incidents.
But the videos just released by the city in response to a public records request are practically useless.
The footage is completely blurred with no sound. Glendale police gave the reason on a half-page note attached to the DVD storing the videos.
“This video was over-redacted (no sound and blurred frames) to ensure that information exempt from disclosure under Arizona’s Public Records Laws is not released,” according to Glendale’s note. It continues, “If you believe something significant happened feel free to file a public records request for the clear video.”
In late February, ABC15 requested body camera videos from Officer Matthew Schneider involving any incidents involving him striking, tasering, pointing a gun, or shooting someone.
Schneider made international news earlier this year after video from a 2017 incident showed him twice kicking a handcuffed man in the testicles before pulling down his athletic shorts and tasering him in the groin.
Glendale police said the practice of over-redaction is a “useful” practice for individuals who ask for multiple body camera videos and allows them to scan the video for specific sections if they want clear video.
The intention is to save police and the requestor time and resources.
But in this case, First Amendment attorney Dan Barr said the move appears to be a move to delay the release of the video. He added that the over-redaction practice is only reasonable under state public record laws if it’s released within days – not months.
“The idea to produce this to you to say ‘let us know what you want here’ is a good one if they could produce (the videos) to you within a day or two and you could respond,” Barr said. “What they did here is obviously they didn’t do anything for six months. And now, they’ve produced (videos) to you only after you pestered them to comply with your request.”
Arizona laws require government agencies to provide public records “promptly.”
In addition to the body camera footage, ABC15 also requested other records, internal misconduct documents, recordings and data in February related to Schneider and another officer.
On August 15, ABC15 wrote Glendale police officials an email asking for firm release for the incomplete requests and raised concern about the city violating Arizona public record laws.
Glendale released the over-redacted videos a week later. Other records, including Schneider’s full disciplinary and misconduct files, are still being processed.
Since their release, ABC15 has demanded full versions of the clear video with audio.
“A lot of public bodies have figured out that they don’t have to say no to you,” said Barr, referring to public record requests. “All they have to do is delay long enough or you’ll lose interest and you’ll forget about your public records request.”
Officer Schneider is still employed as a sworn officer with Glendale police. He is currently facing an FBI investigation and a disciplinary case before the Arizona state police certification board.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.