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Texas Police Refuse to Release Bodycam Footage From the Uvalde School Shooting, Claiming It Could Expose Law Enforcement ‘Weakness’

by Brooke Kaufman

According to reporting from VICE News, the Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) is trying to prevent the public from seeing police body cam footage from the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, saying the footage could be used to the advantage of other shooters looking for “weaknesses” in law enforcement response.

All audio and body cam footage recorded by the police department is now under review by the state’s Office of the Attorney General. Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office will determine what footage, if any, can be released to the public, according to a letter DPS sent VICE News in response to a public records request for “photographs and audio as well as video records” recorded by police in Uvalde. 

“Revealing the marked records would provide criminals with invaluable information concerning Department techniques used to investigate and detect activities of suspected criminal elements; how information is assessed and analyzed; how information is shared among partner law enforcement agencies and the lessons learned from the analysis of prior criminal activities,” DPS wrote in a letter to the Office of the Attorney General. “Knowing the intelligence and response capabilities of Department personnel and where those employees focus their attention will compromise law enforcement purposes by enabling criminals to anticipate weakness in law enforcement procedures and alter their methods of operation in order to avoid detection and apprehension.” 

Following the shooting, VICE News filed a public records request with DPS, Uvalde police, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District, and the Department of Homeland Security and DHS’s Customs and Border Patrol. The requests sought “body camera footage, CCTV footage, audio recordings, and photos from the scene” in order to assess the police response to the shooting. Uvalde police have since been criticized for abandoning protocol and waiting to confront the shooter, which authorities said was the “wrong decision.”

CBP rejected the request, saying body cam footage is part of an ongoing investigation not privy to the public. Uvalde Police and the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District have not responded to VICE’s request. DPS responded to the request and confirmed that “photographs and audio as well as video records” are currently under review.

“The Department has located records responsive to your request; however, we believe the records may be excepted from required public disclosure at this time,” a lawyer for the department said. “We are seeking a ruling from the Office of the Attorney General with respect to disclosure of these records, and a copy of our request letter is enclosed.”

DPS told Paxton’s office that the footage is exempt from public disclosure due to its role in an ongoing investigation. Police are also arguing that the footage could “help other mass shooters,” though in what way exactly is unclear.

Citing an “active investigation” is a typical way police avoid complying with public records requests, as is the “dead suspect loophole,” which applies in the Uvalde shooting. Recipients of the records requests, by law, have 10 business days to respond; at the time of reporting, nine days had passed since VICE made its requests.

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