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  • Writer's pictureMike Burkons

We tried to hide the video of a police shooting and are still misleading the public about it.


The video above shows a police shooting that occurred on 6/27/19 in the Beachwood Mall parking lot.


The day after the shooting, James Pasch and Diane Calta, the Beachwood Council President and Law Director at that time, as well as current Beachwood Prosecutor Natalie Supler, were shown this footage and immediately acknowledged that there was a serious issue and question of whether this was a justified use of deadly force. Despite this, they decided to fight to keep the existence of this footage known by the public, media and most of the rest of Council.


They were successful at this for more than a year until Channel 19 learned of its existence and made a public records request 7/2/20 for it. The City initially denied this request and then on 7/29/20, after almost a full month since Channel 19's initial request, and more than 13 months after the shooting occurred, the City decided that it could no longer fight to keep the existence of this footage from being known, and finally released it. Even worse, the proper process to fire the officer and have charges considered against him only begin on 7/29/20, the exact day the city was finally forced to release the footage, more than 13 months after the incident occurred.


As horrific as George Floyd's murder was, the cop was fired the next day and charges were filed against him four days later. Just imagine if the first time the public heard the name George Floyd, was 13 months after his murder because the Minneapolis Council President, Law Director and City Prosecutor, who saw the footage of his death the day after it occurred, but knew only a very small circle of City officials were aware of the existence of this footage, decided to fight to keep it from the public, media and other elected officials, until 13 months later, when a reporter got a tip of the existence of the footage, and had to fight for almost an entire month until the City was finally forced release it.


Then imagine that the proper process to fire the officer or begin the grand jury process only started once the City of Minneapolis could no longer fight to keep the existence of the footage of George Floyd's death from being known and released for more than 13 months after the incident occurred, leaving every rational person to conclude that neither of these things would have happened if the City wasn't forced to release the footage they were trying to hide.


If that happened, not only would there be outrage at the video itself, but everyone who saw the footage of the incident shortly after it occurred and had a duty to speak out when the decision was made to hide it and the known serious issues from the public, media and the other Councilmembers, would be called on to resign or be fired.


Just to give readers a reference point, when criminal charges and arrests weren't pursued against the three men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, 2020, until 2.5 months later, and only after a video of the incident leaked, the initial prosecutor who didn't seek criminal charges or to arrest the three men who killed him, had criminal charges filed against her for obstruction and violations of oath by a public officer filed against her (click here to read article). In Beachwood, the proper process to pursue criminal charges didn't begin until those who saw the footage could no longer try to keep its existence from being known and had to release it more than 13 months after the shooting occurred.


Beachwood public officials love to shout as loud and publicly as they can claiming how much they care about these race, diversity and police issues. However, these same public officials who claim to care about this stuff and make sure their pictures are taken when attending rallies holding signs that say "Make Good Trouble" or "Silence is Consent", are suddenly are silent and have no issue when it is exposed that the public officials who made the decision to fight to keep the existence of this footage from being known, and none of them lost their job, were forced to resign from elected office or faced criminal charges like they did in the Ahmaud Arbery murder, because it is their friends and political allies. It shows that all the rhetoric they spout claiming to care about these things are empty words and BS.


More than 1,000 people showed up at Beachwood City Hall on June 11, 2020 for the "Rally for Social Justice" to express their anger in the aftermath of George Floyd's death. They were chanting slogans and carrying signs like "Make Good Trouble" and "Silence is Consent". For those who attended this rally, or similar ones like it, if you are only angry when something like this happens hundreds of miles away in Minneapolis, but when it happens here in your own city, you are more angry at the people like me for demanding accountability for those who fought to keep the existence of the footage known, instead of directing your anger at them because they are your friend, you need to do some serious self-reflection to determine if you really do care about these issues or if you only do when it is comfortable. How is this any different or less enabling than the cop who would never violate a citizen's right, but won't report another cop who does?


When the City tried to explain that the reason they fought against the release of the footage, they claimed it was because it might unfairly taint future legal proceedings. Beachwood resident Machelle Knight summed up the flaw in that explanation and troubling double standard in this extremely powerful Letter to the Editor published by CJN, where she wrote, "two weeks after this incident happened, I don’t remember her, or any other city official upset that the city released almost all the footage of the incident, including the foot and car chase of this 19-year-old Black kid, even though the investigation and criminal proceedings into his conduct were far from complete."


When the City finally released the footage, they had no choice but to begin the process to fire the officer which eventually happened on 2-22-21, after being on full paid leave for almost 20 months since the incident. The fired officer challenged this decision, which went to arbitration who ruled, “although the arbitrator’s opinion is that the grievant was not justified in using deadly force in this incident, the City did not prove the grievant violated all of the policies listed in the termination letter, and also made numerous due process errors.” The arbitrator went on to write, “Given the number and seriousness of these errors, the City did not have just cause to terminate the grievant. He is to be reinstated to his position with full benefits as if he had not been terminated.”


You read that correctly. The arbitrator ruled that the City made so many serious mistakes that we have to give an officer his job back despite the arbitrator's belief that the shooting wasn’t a justified use of deadly force.


We can hold rallies in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, saying we care about these race and police issues, but how can anyone believe we mean it when there isn’t any accountability for the small circle of City officials who saw the footage in the days after the shooting and decided to allow the City to fight to hide the footage and known serious issues from the public and the City's Prosecutor, who only began the proper process to take this issue to a grand jury once the City could no longer fight against the release of the footage, still has a job.


I will end this post quoting Marc Wilson's excellent Op-Ed piece titled "Beachwood Must Take Race Issues Seriously" published by the Cleveland Jewish News after two weeks after the City finally released the footage:


If what happened in Minneapolis caused you to be outraged enough to be one of the 1,000 people to attend the rally in Beachwood but are not willing to express this same outrage upon learning what happened here as it is more uncomfortable to do so, your silence is the roadblock to the changes I believe you were marching for that night.


Sincerely,


Mike Burkons

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