PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office now has a written policy requiring prosecutors to watch police body-cam and other evidentiary videos in certain cases before they file criminal charges.
As the ABC15 Investigators have shown over the last few years, what's in the police body-cam video can make or break a case or even exonerate someone arrested.
Last year, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office falsely charged police protesters as gang members without the prosecution team watching all the video. ABC15’ Dave Biscobing chronicled the cases in his Politically Charged investigation.
An independent review of the protest arrests, by retired judge Ronald Steinle, found that MCAO should be watching videos before charging people with felonies.
The report said:
"The MCAO Adel shall set forth a new policy: If Body Wear Camera evidence is present in a case, no charges will be filed until the charging attorney has had an opportunity to review the BWC videos. While it may be normal to trust reports submitted, now based upon the history of unreliable reports in this case, verification is necessary. Further, MCAO will decline any “cut & paste” police report and Form 4s. These cases will be sent back for further investigation. This policy should apply to all law enforcement agencies in Maricopa County."
The new policy requires prosecutors in Maricopa County to watch video evidence prior to filing charges in felony cases if the video shows the crime being committed, provides other critical incriminating evidence, or if it's the basis for for identifying the suspect.
A supervisor must be consulted if the prosecutor wants to file charges without watching the video, and if a defense attorney claims video would exonerate a defendant, the policy says that video is to be watched as soon as possible.
The county attorney admits that the policy does not make a dramatic change in her office, and prosecutors should have already been reviewing all the evidence, including watching police videos, in their assigned cases.
“This is, for lack of a better term, codifying it,” Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel said. “It's in writing, and our prosecutors are aware that is my expectation of them that they take a look at this evidence.”