Statement on Dash Cam Video Release
I have viewed the dash cam video of the incident involving Jerime Mitchell and officer Lucas Jones. It was very tough to watch, but that is often the case with these incidents. Unfortunately, here in America these videos have become a regular part of our life and that is one of the greatest tragedies of the times.
We were told that Mr. Mitchell was belligerent and we were led to believe that he incited an altercation with a police officer. It is clear in the video that Mr. Mitchell exited his car calmly after apparently being instructed by officer Jones and was soon thrown against his truck, slammed to the ground and attacked by a police dog. Mr. Mitchell did not physically retaliate against the officer or the police dog. The case can be made that Mr. Mitchell feared for his life.
The grand jury decision has left more questions than answers. We know that the jurors were not provided with critical evidence and there was no audio recording to corroborate the testimony given by officer Lucas Jones. If a grand jury does not have all of the facts, it cannot see the whole picture and therefore cannot arrive at the most credible and complete outcome. The way this case unfolded and the process that led to the grand jury decision would not meet the litmus test of due process of any reasonable person.
We must try hard to rid ourselves of the biases we bring to this situation and view the video with open minds and tender hearts. If we are honest with ourselves, at most we know that the video does not support the accounts of the event that have been provided to date. At the very least we can all agree that reasonable doubts about the account as presented exist. Furthermore, there is a high degree of uncertainty around whether or not the grand jury was presented with all of the evidence of the case. Given the circumstances of this case, it is appropriate to question whether or not the grand jury was able to come to a fair conclusion. Given the circumstances of this case, it is fair to question whether or not a thorough and fair investigative and judicial process was rendered.
This is a sad day for our community. There are many who will need to grieve this process that commenced with a “nagging gap,” and rendered a questionable decision. However, I do believe that in all things there is a lesson. While we mourn the results of an imperfect system, we should take this opportunity to work together to make it better. Mr. Vander Sanden can still call for a criminal trial for officer Lucas Jones and he should. If Mr. Jones is innocent, I trust that a jury of his peers will vindicate him of any criminal wrongdoing.
We should also take this time to review our process of investigating and prosecuting officer-involved shootings. Outside investigators and special prosecutors lend impartiality in cases that are referred to a grand jury. The Cedar Rapids Police Department has made it a standard practice to use the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation which is a division of the Iowa Department of Public Safety to investigate officer-involved shootings. Chief Jerman is to be commended for implementing this practice. The Polk County Attorney’s office requests a special prosecutor for all officer-involved shooting cases that are referred to a grand jury. This is a practice that the Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden should consider. Finally, this country must be willing to have some very tough conversations about a multitude of topics including pretextual stops, racial profiling, criminal justice reform, judicial procedures reform, community policing and the rebuilding of trust between law enforcement officials and the diverse communities they serve.
Our progress will be limited if during these tough conversations we retreat into our respective camps and allow the heightened rhetoric of the times to cloud our ability to seek reasonable solutions, and implement more equitable policies and practices. These incidents hurt, but they are teachable moments if we allow ourselves to learn. If what we truly seek is reconciliation and understanding, then we will acknowledge our deficiencies and work together to address them. These actions will enhance public trust in our institutions and make better the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
Maria Popova recently wrote that the future at which our courage must aim its gaze is often one obscured by the blinders of our culture’s current scope of possibility. In other words, change may be within our grasp even when it’s not within our line of sight. Reforming our criminal justice system will take bold vision and many profiles in courage from our leaders and grassroots activists. Our collective efforts will be the weight that bends the moral arc of this universe a little closer to justice. It’s gut check time now, and we must all ask ourselves what are we doing to bend that arc in the right direction.