St. Louis Police Chief Faces Pushback in Withholding Bodycam Video After Crash into South City Bar

St. Louis, MO – The police chief of St. Louis is facing scrutiny for his refusal to release bodycam footage following a police SUV crash into a South City bar. Chief Robert Tracy cited state laws and the Sunshine Law as the reasons behind his decision. According to state law, police can withhold body camera footage if its release would jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation or put a confidential informant at risk.

However, in this particular case involving the crash at Bar:PM, a gay bar owned by Chad Morris and James Spence, there is no indication that the release of the video would compromise an investigation. The incident resulted in an officer apologizing for the crash, while another officer handcuffed one of the bar owners and subsequently arrested the co-owner after a possible physical altercation.

City leaders who have viewed the video suggest that the bar’s co-owner may have shoved the officer, who in turn allegedly punched him. The situation remains under investigation.

Chief Tracy’s reluctance to release the bodycam footage has raised questions regarding his transparency policies. When asked about his future approach to sharing records with the public, he stated that each case would be assessed individually, taking into account various factors, including input from the city council and the circuit attorney.

While there is no legal requirement for Chief Tracy to release the video, there is the possibility that a court could order its release. The debate surrounding the video’s availability emphasizes the importance of maintaining open access to public records in a democracy. The U.S. Department of Justice has described open access to such records as a cornerstone of American democracy, allowing citizens to evaluate government operations and monitor public officials’ actions.

In an era where the government’s inclination towards secrecy is often questioned, experts argue that citizens have a right to obtain data that has been collected or created using their tax dollars. The expectation is that the government should be accountable to the people it serves.

Chief Tracy, upon assuming his role in 2023, expressed his commitment to transparency, claiming it as one of his core values. The public now awaits his actions to determine whether he will fulfill this promise or not.