Ben Crump, a lawyer representing Mr Nichols’ family, praised the quick timing but suggested that race may have played a role. The five accused police officers are black. “We want to proclaim that this is the blueprint for the future any time any officer, whether black or white, will be held accountable,” Crump said. “You can no longer tell us that we have to wait six months to a year.”
Chris Magnus, who formerly led the police department in Tucson, Arizona, said there was “an attitude that less was shared about various incidents — and certainly those that reflected police shortcomings or misconduct — the better. “
“I think that helped create a climate of distrust of the police and a lack of trust because people only felt they were getting information when it was good news,” said Magnus, now a senior advisor at New York University School of Police Project Law.
In recent years, some police departments have avoided a case-by-case debate over the release of footage and have begun posting police shooting videos on a regular basis. Officials in Milwaukee and Phoenix, for example, post presentations on YouTube, which often include body camera footage, sometimes cropped and narrated. Some agencies now allow family members of the deceased to view the videos before they are released to the public.
Kristen Ziman, who retired in 2021 as police chief in Aurora, Illinois, said early in her career she was told not to comment on police shootings. In doing so, the reasoning went, you risked compromising the criminal or internal investigations.
But in recent years, he said, that strategy has become unsustainable. As high-profile deaths at the hands of police fueled nationwide protests and as more departments adopted body cameras, expectations changed. He said the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, which sparked protests and riots across the country, including Aurora, was a game changer.