According to newly released body camera footage from the shooting death of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was holding a cellphone in his family’s backyard, officers present at the scene muted their cameras soon after. The Sacramento Bee reports that about six minutes after the incident took place, an officer can be heard telling another to “mute” his body camera’s microphone. Vice notes that, one by one, the officers present at the scene begin muting their body camera’s mics while asking each other, “Hey, you guys good?”
Once all of the mics had been muted, the police visible in the body camera footage “can be seen speaking to each other and to at least one civilian on scene for about two more minutes before the video ends.” According to department spokesperson Sgt. Vance Chandler, “There are a variety of reasons why officers have the opportunity to mute their body worn cameras.” What those reasons specifically weren’t made clear at the time, though Chandler did refer “to the department’s general orders for details” regarding such cases. He may have been referring to the general orders’ section on deactivation, which allows officers to “deactivate the body-worn camera at any time based on their discretion” during a variety of situations.
Whether or not Clark’s shooting death warrants deactivation remains to be seen, especially since he was unarmed. As local pastor and activist Les Simmons told the Sacrament Bee, “They all just muted their mics… It was a moment of, what are they doing? What are they saying?” Reiterating the paper’s own question to Chandler, Simmons asked, “Can they do that?”