from thought-the-law-abiding-had-nothing-to-hide? department
The Uvalde Police Department – a recipient of 40% of the city’s budget – botched its response to a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Rather than rush at the sound of gunfire, the officers stopped advancing once they were adjacent to gunshots. It took another law enforcement agency (a Border Patrol Tactical Team) to stop the murder, which at that time numbered 19 students and two teachers.
As embarrassing new details continue to leak, the Uvalde Police Department has desperately tried to stop the constant drip. He decided to simply refuse to respond to nearly every one of the hundreds of school shooting-related inquiries he received. (The PD also refuses to cooperate with a federal investigation into the shooting, so it’s not just about obstructing taxpayers.)
And he benefited from an unexpected united front. The Texas Department of Security has come to the defense of the extremely defensive Uvalde Police Department, saying any information or documentation it may have on hand regarding the response to the shooting (including body camera footage ) cannot be disclosed because it could (and I quote) “allow criminals to anticipate weaknesses in law enforcement procedures.”
The procedure has been weakness, at least as it is practiced by the police officers of Uvalde. The training tells first responders sacrificing their own safety to protect others in active fire situations, but that just didn’t happen. Immediate statements from the department portrayed the officers as heroes, an illusion the PD failed even to maintain for 24 hours.
Uvalde’s PD clearly doesn’t want to divulge any information about his sloppy shooting response. As Jason Koebler reports for Motherboard, the PD retained private representation to engage in a legal war on its behalf, spending the public’s money to keep the documents out of their hands.
The city of Uvalde and its police department are working with a private law firm to prevent the release of nearly all records related to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in which 19 children and two teachers died, according to a letter obtained by Motherboard in response to a series of public information requests we made. The public records that Uvalde is trying to delete include body camera footage, photos, 911 calls, emails, text messages, criminal records, and more.
“The city has not voluntarily released any information to any member of the public,” city attorney Cynthia Trevino, who works for the private law firm Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal & Zech, wrote in a letter to the prosecutor. General of Texas, Ken Paxton. The city wrote the letter asking Paxton to determine what information he is required to release to the public, which is standard practice in Texas. Paxton’s office will eventually decide which of the city’s arguments have merit and determine what public documents, if any, it is required to release.
Hiring an outside attorney is not necessarily unusual when a lot of litigation seems inevitable. What’s a bit more unusual is the private law firm’s approach to public records requests. Rather than presenting the reasons why certain documents and records could be exempted from disclosure, he chose to treat all requests as an inseparable mass to which any or all of the possible exemptions could apply.
The city says it received 148 separate public records requests (including several from Motherboard) and consolidated them all, making a general legal argument as to why it shouldn’t be required to respond to many of them.
That’s the law firm’s pitch to Attorney General Ken Paxton, hoping the AG will take its side and declare most of those 148 applications exempt from release. It may work with GA, but it certainly won’t work in court when the inevitable lawsuits for denied claims start rolling in.
But that’s the point. This gives Uvalde’s PD more time. This forces the plaintiffs to spend their time and money suing for access to the records battling a private law firm paid with public money to help Uvalde’s PD fuck the public.
This raises questions about what could be captured in documents and body camera footage. The concerted effort to prevent the disclosure of any information gives the distinct impression that this is a cover-up. What he hides is left to the imagination of the general public, who are no closer to having access to what the PD hides. Are there falsified reports? Cops filmed cowering in place? Cops mocking the terrified families waiting outside the school? Confusion? Chaos? Panic? Are law enforcement professionals much less heroic than they think?
Either way, it will eventually come out. It’s the PD that delays the inevitable. And the longer he fights, the angrier the audience will be. The PD was dishonest from the start. Now he is using public money against them.
Filed Under: faith, ken paxton, texas, texas dps, transparency, uvalde, uvalde pd