In D.C., the effectiveness of body cameras has become a contentious issue, with some arguing they don’t do much to serve cases of alleged police misconduct. Pictured is Phoenix Police Department Sgt. Kevin Johnson with the new Axon Body 2. Phoenix was among the last big departments to adopt widespread use of body cameras.

Ross D. Franklin / AP Photo

A D.C. judge on Thursday declined a request from the D.C. Police Union to stop the public release of body-camera footage from fatal incidents involving police.

The ruling was first reported by The Washington Post.

Superior Court Judge Hiram Puig-Lugo denied the union’s request for a restraining order to stop any further releases of footage or the names of officers involved in fatal incidents, as a new law passed by the D.C. Council in July now requires. The law gives D.C. five days to make public the footage and names, and set Aug. 15 as a deadline for the release of both for any incident that occurred since the city started outfitting police with body-worn cameras in late 2014.

On July 31, D.C. released footage and the names of officers involved in the 2018 killing of three men by police — Jeffrey Price, Marqueese Alston and D’Quan Young. Body-camera footage and officer names from four other fatal incidents were not released at the request of families, as the law allows, and footage had already been released by Mayor Muriel Bowser in three other cases — Terrence SterlingGerald Hall and Sherman Evans.

In a lawsuit filed earlier this week, the union said releasing footage and names would “unjustly malign and permanently tarnish the reputation and good name of any officer that is later cleared of misconduct concerning the use of force” and “place officers and the public at immediate risk of significant bodily harm.”

Attorneys for D.C. countered that releasing footage and names was in the public interest and that any claims of possible harm to officers was speculative. They also said that since all footage from fatal incidents since 2014 has now been released — there have been 16, according to city officials, 10 of which had body-camera footage available — there would be no need for an emergency restraining order as the union was requesting.

According to the Post, Puig-Lugo sided with D.C., saying there was no “immediate or irreparable harm” to officers from the release of footage and names in fatal incidents.

Still, the legal battle is expected to continue, as Puig-Lugo’s ruling only concerned the union’s request for an immediate halt to more releases; the broader lawsuit concerning the new law has yet to be fought out.

In an interview with DCist/WAMU on Thursday, union chairman Gregg Pemberton said that officers supported the city’s old policy, which allowed for a limited release of body-camera footage and gave the mayor the right to release any footage she deems to be in the public interest. But he said the new law goes too far.

“The current law that was recently passed has this blanket provision that says that all of the body camera and the officer’s name that are involved has to be released within five business days. And the problem that we have with that is that that’s not nearly enough time for the U.S. Attorney’s office to do a preliminary investigation, for internal affairs to do a preliminary investigation, or for anyone to sort of make a determination as to whether or not it’s appropriate or whether that video could have any negative impact, either on the criminal investigation, the administrative investigation, or any negative impact on any of the persons involved,” he said.

The union has also sued over another provision of the emergency police-reform bill that removes discipline from the list of topics that can be address during contract negotiations.

And it’s not just the union that’s upset. The families of the three men for who the footage was released say D.C. did not give adequate notice as the law requires.

Additional reporting by Daniella Cheslow.