The release of dashcam footage of police shooting 40 rounds into a mentally ill Michigan man in 2012 have communities rallying against police brutality.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been criticized by civil liberties groups for failing to prosecute officers who fired at a man nearly four dozen times in a 2012 incident that sparked public outcry.
Police dashcam video of the shooting was released last week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who obtained the footage from lawyers representing the family of 49-year-old Milton Hall. Hall, who was mentally ill, was fatally shot by six Saginaw, Mich., police officers during an encounter in July 2012.
Police approached Hall in the parking lot of a local shopping center. It is unclear what prompted the call, though reports noted that Hall was confronted by police as he held a knife. After Hall failed to comply with police demands that he drop the knife, officers drew their weapons and opened fire.
Cellphone video captured by an eyewitness showed Hall collapsing after officers fired more than 40 shots. The video prompted the DOJ and the Michigan State Police to open an investigation into the conduct of the officers. All six were placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
In the end, none of the officers were criminally charged. Prosecutors said they failed to find “sufficient evidence of willful misconduct.”
“It is the decision of the prosecutor’s office that we do not believe that the arresting officers are chargeable for their actions,” prosecutor Michael Thomas said two months after the incident.
The release of the dashcam video last week renewed calls for an ongoing debate over the excessive use of force by police officers. An ACLU official said the video proved the conduct of the officers was “unjust” and that the shooting “grossly violated Milton Hall’s human right to life.”
The DOJ and the Michigan State Police did not respond to media requests for comment. According to The Huffington Post, DOJ officials had reviewed the tape before deciding the officers would not be charged in connection with the shooting.
The release of the video comes amid a torrent of calls by local communities who allege their law enforcement agencies go too far in their encounters with citizens.
Last week, the Albuquerque Police Department reached a deal with the DOJ after the agency was investigated for repeated civil rights violations over excessive force by officers. The agency was criticized after a video surfaced showing Albuquerque police officers fatally shooting James Boyd, a mentally-ill homeless man. The video, captured by an officer’s body camera, showed police firing several bean-bag rounds at Boyd after he had been shot.
Boyd was the 26th person to be fatally shot by officers in five years. The encounter sparked a wave of protests across Albuquerque, including one in which the agency dispatched officers who had been involved in controversial shootings.
According to a reform deal reached between the DOJ and Albuquerque police, the agency has agreed to form a use of force review board and overhaul its training of police officers. The agreement is subject to approval by the Albuquerque city council.
Similar deals have been reached with other agencies, including police departments in Seattle, New Orleans and Puerto Rico over the past several years.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.