Citing ongoing investigation, police deny much of a request for information from NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
The Baltimore County Police Department told the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Friday it would continue to withhold the names of the officers involved it the Aug. 1 shooting of Korryn Gaines, the 23-year-old woman shot in her Randallstown apartment after an hours-long standoff.
The civil rights law organization sought more information about when the officers would be identified and other details of the shooting in a letter to police dated Aug. 15. Officials with the group said they wanted to better understand what led to the shooting and clear up what they called inconsistencies.
But the police department declined much of the request in its response, citing the ongoing investigation and safety concerns. The response did say the officers have 28, 21 and six years of service and the tactical officer who fired on Gaines, also striking her young son, remains assigned to administrative duties.
On body camera footage, also requested by the defense fund, the department repeated earlier reports that there was no footage from inside the apartment and that video from officers stationed outside would not be released due to the continuing investigation.
The department did supply information on the body camera program generally, a copy of the county police field manual articles about serving arrest warrants, information on administrative review procedures for officer-involved shootings and an agreement with the police union.
In its response letter, the police department said it has sought to be as transparent as possible, considering that investigators have not finished their job.
The full text of the county's response letter is below:
The Baltimore County Police Department has received your August 15, 2016 letter seeking additional information about the police investigation involving Korryn Gaines. Despite the fact that the investigation is ongoing, we are attempting to address questions and clarify information related to this incident.
This is an ongoing police investigation; accordingly, some information you have requested is not available for release at this time. The Baltimore County Police Department considers transparency essential to the public trust. We held a press briefing about three hours after the conclusion of the August 1 incident and a follow-up briefing on August 2, less than 24 hours after the initial briefing. Further, we have published the information we are able to release at this time to the agency's website and social media platforms for public access and viewing. These actions demonstrate that we fully understand the public's need for and right to answers about such incidents. We continue to respond to individual questions from media, citizens and public officials, recognizing that information is key to building confidence and trust.
Finally, please understand that an investigation is a process of information gathering over time. All of the facts and circumstances of an investigation are not known, fixed, readily able to be gathered, and available at the conclusion of an incident or even hours afterward; if this were the case, there would be no need for an investigation. The very nature of the investigative process is such that information evolves over time as interviews are conducted, statements are vetted, physical evidence is examined and facts are gathered. We are committed to providing new information as soon as we are able (and have done just that over the past two weeks) as long as doing so has no deleterious effect on the ongoing investigation. We apologize if these updates – made in the interests of transparency – have confused any of the issues for you.
I will address each of your questions in the order in which you pose them.
1. Re: audio recordings, we are in the process of reviewing and transcribing tapes of four radio channels used by patrol and specialized personnel during the incident. These include a Hostage Negotiations Team channel and a Tactical channel.
There are no audiotapes of the conversation between Gaines and negotiators because Maryland law (Courts and Judicial Proceedings, Section 10-402, of the Annotated Code) allows recordings only during barricades involving hostages. Kodi Gaines was not a hostage in this incident because – while police had serious concerns for his safety due to his mother's erratic and unusual behavior – he was not used as leverage to fulfill a demand.
Re: body cameras, during the August 1 and 2 press briefings we advised that none of the officers "involved in the direct conflict at this incident site" were equipped with body cameras. That is accurate. On August 4, we learned of and informed the public of the existence of body camera video filmed by officers stationed on the outside perimeter of the incident in support roles; this footage does not capture events inside the apartment building. This video will not be released at this time due to the ongoing investigation.
Information about deployment plans for BCoPD's body camera program is available on our website, http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/police/bodycameras/index.html. The body camera program began during the first week of July. To date, 60 officers (out of 1,435 who eventually will wear them) have been equipped. The 60 cameras are deployed equally between the 10 precincts and the Crash Team.
2. A copy of Baltimore County Police Field Manual Article 4-3.2, Serving Arrest Warrants in Baltimore County, is attached.
3. We continue to withhold the names of the officers involved in this incident because of the ongoing investigation and due to safety concerns. A copy of the pertinent section of our Memorandum of Understanding with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #4 is attached.
Three officers participated in the service of the warrant on Gaines. All three are Officers First Class. They have 28, 21 and six years of service.
4. As we have stated in our briefings and written updates and based on information available at this point in the investigation, the turning point of this confrontation occurred when Gaines lifted her Mossberg pistol grip shotgun to a ready position and aimed it at the tactical officer. Ms. Gaines threatened to kill police officers during the standoff. We continue the investigation of the specific circumstances of the shooting. No additional information is available for release at this time.
5. BCoPD conducts an administrative review of officer-involved shootings; this involves a review of procedures and policies relevant to the incident. Disciplinary action in this case, if appropriate, would follow completion of this review.
6. The tactical officer remains assigned to administrative duties at this time. Upon completion of the police investigation of the incident, the Baltimore County State's Attorney will engage in an independent review.
We sincerely hope this resolves your concerns. Again, we are committed to providing as much information as possible, as soon as possible, while preserving a fair and thorough investigation of the facts of this incident.