Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told The Denver Post's editorial board last week that he has promised to provide the family of Michael Marshall, a mentally ill homeless man who died after being restrained by deputies in Denver's jail, access to the surveillance video as soon as the investigation is completed.
The city has offered this assurance before, but then Hancock added something new.
"I don't expect it is going to take much longer," he said, referring to the video's release.
We assume that means days or perhaps a few weeks at most. If so, it could help resolve controversy surrounding Marshall's death.
And if the video can be shown to the family, what reason would there be to withhold it from the public at large?
Family members and their supporters, such as protesters who booed the mayor Monday at Civic Center, have objected to what they claim is the failure by authorities to provide them answers in the death, which occurred in November.
The police department expedited its investigation, Hancock said, the coroner was quick to complete the autopsy and now the case is with the district attorney, who will consider if charges are warranted.
By releasing the video too soon, Hancock explained, the investigation into whether the deputies were criminally responsible could be compromised.
"What we want to do is make sure everyone who needs to be interviewed has been interviewed before we show the video," the mayor said.
This is standard practice, and a reasonable policy. The problem occurs when authorities fail to release video long after conclusion of an investigation in a highly charged case. The surveillance video of a fatal confrontation between deputies and homeless street preacher Marvin Booker in July 2010 was not released for months after the DA declined to file charges. Booker died after being subdued by deputies and his family eventually won a $4.65 million civil suit against the city.
Elsewhere, video has been held by authorities much longer. Recently, a judge in Chicago ordered the release of a nearly three-year-old video of a police shooting.
And last year Chicago officials fought the release of a dash-cam video of a police shooting of teenaged Laquan McDonald that resulted in the arrest of the officer for murder.
Denver officials must preserve the integrity of the case. But the mayor's comments suggest they also recognize the desirability of timely release of video in a case like the one involving Marshall.
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