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The city of Uvalde has hired a law firm to help argue that it doesn't have to release public records relating to the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Texas.
The city has received almost 150 separate public records requests since the shooting on 24 May, when 19 children and two teachers died as a gunman opened fire.
The requests relate to body camera footage, photos, 911 calls, emails, text messages and criminal records, but after receiving them the city made a broad legal argument as to why it should not be required to respond to many of them.
In a letter written to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and cited by Motherboard, the city's lawyer Cynthia Trevino asked for a determination on the information it is required to release and wrote: "The City has not voluntarily released any information to a member of the public."
The letter outlines that the city and its police department do not want to release a wide variety of records, partly because it is being sued and partly for a number of other reasons including the potential of it being 'highly embarrassing' or 'not of legitimate concern to the public'; or because it could reveal 'methods, techniques, and strategies for preventing and predicting crime' or cause or regard 'emotional/mental distress'.
The letter does not reveal what records the city and police are referring to specifically, but it states it should be exempt from releasing 'police officer training guides, policy and procedure manuals, shift change schedules, security details, and blueprints of secured facilities' because they could give information relating to 'preventing and predicting crime'.
When it comes to releasing bodycam footage, the city argues it could be 'considered to be confidential by law, either constitutional, statutory, or by judicial decision', while an individual's criminal history cannot be released because it would be 'highly embarrassing', among other things, though the letter does not specify why.
Christopher Schneider, a professor of sociology at Brandon University who studies police body cameras and the disclosure of footage from them, told Motherboard the 'highly embarrassing information' in the case is the 'inept police response'.
"They have no problem using information like that against individuals of the public. The information disclosure needs to go both ways, if that’s the case. It’s rather ripe to say any of this is not of legitimate public concern. The whole country is trying to figure out how to not allow this to happen again," Schneider claimed.
The professor expressed belief that putting the public record requests together appears to be a tactic to prevent the release of all of the relevant records in one go.
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