A full account of the moments preceding the Charlotte shooting of Keith Lamont Scott is not available because one of the responding officers failed to activate his body camera, which is a violation of department policy.
After much pressure from the public and protesters, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released two videos from the Scott shooting. However, neither of the videos provided definitive evidence as to whether or not Scott had a weapon.
The body camera footage showed an officer yelling at Scott with his weapon drawn. Another officer wearing a camera stood behind Scott’s truck, which he struck with his baton. Then another officer who was out of frame shot Scott four times and Scott fell to the ground.
However, the issue with this footage is that the audio is missing, which means two things: details from moments leading up to the shooting are absent and the officer failed to activate his body camera until after the shooting.
The CMPD provided their officers with Taser brand body cameras that are always on. However, because they are constantly on, they operate in a “buffer” setting. This means that only 30 seconds of audio-less footage is recorded before the officer activates the camera to start recording with audio.
“When you go on duty, you turn the camera on. But when you turn the camera on it is only in the buffer mode,” said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser. “What it’s doing is recording nothing but video. It’s recording constantly, but it’s only saving the last 30 seconds of video.”
In order for the officer to activate the camera, they must double tap the large button on the camera. When the camera is activated, audio comes in to the footage and a double beep sound is heard. In the footage released by CMPD, the double beep occurs after Scott was shot.
CMPD policy states that all officers must activate their cameras as soon as they respond to a scene. The department has not identified the officer who failed to activate their camera and they also have not commented on any disciplinary actions that will be taken for breaking CMPD policy.
Justin Bamberg, attorney for Scott’s family, believes that had the officer activated his camera at the appropriate time, we may have more information surrounding the shooting.
“Information that we could have had is forever gone because of this officer’s failure to follow department policy and procedures,” Bamberg said. “Those policies exist for a reason, and there is a reason the CMPD equips its officers with body cameras — because body cameras provide visual evidence so that when tragic things do happen we don’t have to question exactly what happened.”
(Photo: AP Photo/Emery P. Dalesio)