Beachwood City Council discusses police reform after delayed release of controversial officer-involved shooting video

Updated: Aug. 6, 2020 at 11:00 PM EDT
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BEACHWOOD, Ohio (WOIO) - A video from an officer-involved shooting in June 2019 is one of the reasons many members of the Beachwood community are calling for police reform.

“There’s a lot of room for something tragic to happen, and it could be read by many that we’re trying to avoid dealing with this,” said Beachwood City Councilman Alec Isaacson.

The video shows Beachwood police officer Blake Rogers shooting a teenager who was suspected of stealing a $59 hat from Beachwood Place mall. Records show he fired two shots into the driver’s side window as 19-year-old Jaquan Jones drove away, hitting the teen twice.

The officer has been on paid administrative leave since that day. Beachwood previously refused to release raw footage of the shooting to 19 News until our investigative team raised concerns that the city was improperly withholding public records.

“Let me make this very clear, city council has no control over police matters, police video, or its release,” said Beachwood Mayor Martin Horwitz. “There was never a fight to release this video nor was there ever any nefarious or clandestine plot to withhold this video by the administration. The section showing the actual shooting was redacted pending its use in a criminal investigation. When recent requests came in from WOIO-TV. I discussed this with our law direction based on what appears to be a national trend to release unredacted police video. She reviewed the law to determine if we had authority to release the video, and at my insistence, we released all of the unredacted video.”

After learning about our request for the unedited police footage, Beachwood City Councilman Mike Burkons proposed the city change their policy. He says video of any police shooting or use-of-force incident where someone is hurt should be released within one week.

“Channel 19 made a request for the footage and on July 16, after some urging from people, we decided to deny them their request for the footage, so, I just think it’s not an accurate statement that there’s been no effort not to provide the footage,” Burkons said to the mayor. “I just don’t think it should be characterized that way.”

“We did it frankly without a policy. It was my judgment call with our law director,” Horwitz said. “We just looked at it and said: ‘This is the trend, this is obviously where cities are going, and with everyone being a citizen journalist with a cell phone camera sending video to news sources it doesn’t make sense to hold on to the video.‘”

Council members urged the mayor to put this policy into the police manual, so something like this doesn’t happen again.

“There was a perception of delay and resistance, and by enshrining it in a policy we can work to be sure that people don’t perceive that we’re delaying or resisting the release,” Isaacson said.

The city council also discussed putting together a citizen advisory review board. The group would have some independent authority to oversee police investigations.

“It’s a direction many cities are moving towards just to get a second set of eyes,” said Beachwood City Council President James Pasch.

Beachwood currently has no police chief. The council proposed having the new police chief review the city’s use-of-force procedures as soon as possible. None of these policies were put in place today, but the city says they plan on having more meetings on these topics in the coming weeks.

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