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​City of Topeka Statement on Officer Involved Shooting


The members of the governing body extend their sincere condolences to the family and friends of Dominique White – it is incredibly difficult to lose a family member and friend. The loss of a member of our community affects us all.

The City’s goals in connection with Mr. White’s death are simple and sincere: first, to make certain the death is thoroughly and fairly investigated; second, to determine whether the officers’ actions were consistent with the law and with city policies and procedures; and third, to consider whether City policies and procedures are appropriate.

Naturally, there has been a lot of media attention surrounding this case and the governing body understands the community’s desire to be provided with the details involving the events that occurred on September 28th. At this time, however, we believe that it is vital to the integrity of the criminal justice system to consistently follow the procedures currently in place.

By following the established procedure not to publicly release footage of the body worn camera, we might be accused of “protecting” the officers. However, we must look at this from a broader perspective. Release of such evidence outside of a trial setting - regardless of who is involved - has a tendency to encourage “trial by media,” cause prejudice and potentially taint a jury pool, which could affect the outcome in a criminal case.
To insure fairness and integrity, please note the following:

(1) The body worn camera footage will be shown to the administrator of Dominique White’s estate appointed by the court at the request of the family. (See KSA 45-254, reprinted at Attachment A). Family members are represented by various attorneys who have guided them through this process.

(2) If an officer or officers are charged or indicted, their names will become public. If no charges are brought, the names may be released at the conclusion of an internal investigation. In accordance with standard operating procedure, the officers involved were immediately placed on administrative leave and, as such, have had no law enforcement contact with the public since that time.

(3) The body worn camera footage may be released once a determination is made that the camera footage is in the public interest and will not interfere with any prospective law enforcement action, criminal investigation or prosecution. (See KSA 45-221(a)(10), reprinted at Attachment A). Members of the governing body have not viewed any criminal investigation records, including video from the body worn camera, as the governing body plays no role in criminal investigations.

The governing body has heard the requests for further community discussion and wholeheartedly agrees that public dialogue is essential. We have reached out to the Department of Justice for assistance in facilitating those efforts. We ask for your support and patience as the process unfolds.

ATTACHMENT A

RELEVANT EXCERPTS FROM THE KANSAS OPEN RECORDS ACT

I. Criminal investigation records. Criminal investigation records are exempt from open record requirements absent a court directing such records to be released. K.S.A. 45-221(a)(10) provides:

“(a) Except to the extent disclosure is otherwise required by law, a public agency shall not be required to disclose:

(10) Criminal investigation records, except as provided herein. The district court, in an action brought pursuant to K.S.A. 45-222, and amendments thereto, may order disclosure of such records, subject to such conditions as the court may impose, if the court finds that disclosure:
(A) Is in the public interest;
(B) would not interfere with any prospective law enforcement action, criminal investigation or prosecution;
(C) would not reveal the identity of any confidential source or undercover agent;
(D) would not reveal confidential investigative techniques or procedures not known to the general public;
(E) would not endanger the life or physical safety of any person; and
(F) would not reveal the name, address, phone number or any other information which specifically and individually identifies the victim of any sexual offense in article 35 of chapter 21 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated, prior to their repeal, or article 55 of chapter 21 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated, and amendments thereto.” (emphasis added)

II. Body worn cameras. K.S.A. 45-254 expressly provides that video taken by a law enforcement body worn camera is a “criminal investigation record.” This particular law was effective July 1, 2016, and will expire on July 1, 2021, unless reviewed and reenacted prior to that date. This will provide state legislators with five years of information on the practical effects of this law before it expires or is reenacted. This same law, K.S.A. 45-254, also allows specific individuals to view body worn camera videos:

A law enforcement agency shall allow the following persons to view a video recording:

1. The person who is the subject of the recording.[NA]
2. A parent/guardian of a person under 18 who is the subject of the recording. [NA – Dominique White was older than 18]
3. An attorney for (1) or (2). [Neither (1) or (2) apply so (3) does not apply either]
4. “An heir at law, an executor or an administrator of a decedent, when the decedent is a subject of the recording.”

The family of Dominique White has had an administrator appointed at this time.