Body cameras have been hailed as a way to hold police and criminals accountable by showing what happened with an unbiased eye.
But even in cases where videos capture an arrest, the facts are still subject to debate.
That’s the issue around the mistaken arrest of Patrick Mumford in Savannah, Georgia. Police officers were looking to arrest Michael Clayton on a warrant on Feb. 1, but they instead confronted Mumford. Both men are African American. The officers are white. And the issue of police violence against black men has intensified in the last three years as Americans have witnessed the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and most recently Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
During the arrest, Mumford repeatedly demanded to see the warrant. Officers repeatedly told him to get out of the car he was sitting in. Neither complied with the other, and an officer used a stun gun on Mumford twice before arresting him. The officers said they believed Mumford was reaching for something on the floor of his car.
And when they realized they had the wrong man after looking at Mumford’s ID, they chose to charge him with obstruction rather than letting him go. That charge has since been dropped, but police are still seeking to have his probation revoked, according to CBS News.
The attorney released an edited version of one of the body camera videos on YouTube Thursday.
Savannah-Chatham Police Chief Joseph H. Lumpkin then released the full version of three body camera videos later that day, calling the edited version “misleading” and “apparently intended to be inflammatory.”
In all versions, an officer asks Mumford for his name three times, and the second two times Mumford responds that his name is Patrick, though his voice is muffled in the video.
The name was “unclear to the officers,” according to a statement by Lumpkin. So the officer tells Mumford to stand up and get out of his vehicle, which Mumford does.
The officer then tells Mumford to put his hands on the car, and Mumford asks, “What did I do?” The officer then tries to forcefully put Mumford’s hands behind his back and Mumford drops back into the vehicle, repeatedly asking what he did. The officer replies they have a warrant for his arrest, which was actually the warrant for Clayton and not Mumford.
Mumford says he just returned from meeting with his probation officer, as the two struggle. He had been convicted of marijuana possession in the past and his attorney argues the probation officer would have mentioned if he had a warrant out for his arrest. Mumford was a first-time offender.
The officer then tells another officer to tase Mumford. The other officer does not tase Mumford yet; Mumford appears to reach for something on the floor of his car, and an officer tells him, “Do not reach.”
The attorney video points out that 38 seconds passed between the officer asking Mumford for his name and the officer wanting to tase him.
The officers eventually tase Mumford twice. Lumpkin said in his statement that the officers perceived Mumford reaching for something as “a threat to their safety.”
Later in the video, the officers claim they asked for Mumford’s ID four times and he should’ve complied. Officers never asked him to show his ID, but did ask him for his name three times.
Lumpkin said the edited version omits “significant” details, such as a relative of Mumford telling him to cooperate with police and another relative agreeing with police that Mumford and Clayton look similar.
Lumpkin added that an administrative investigation into the incident was underway but he did not name the involved officers, choosing to refer to them as Officers A, B and C.
“We are reviewing the actions and decisions which our officers made in the current case,” Lumpkin said. “In doing so, we must consider all the facts and not rush to unfair judgements based on highly edited videos which are apparently intended to mislead and inflame the public against the officers involved.”
Here are the three full, unedited videos released by the police department: