It is time to make the Manteca Police Department dash patrol video footage of the fatal police shooting of Ernest Duenez Jr. public.
The decision not to release the footage - which both law enforcement officers as well as the Duenez’ family say will prove their respective points - has only left police officers twisting in the wind and certainly has done nothing to alleviate the frustration of Duenez’ family and friends who are demanding justice.
The fairly rare move by the Manteca Police Officers Association Friday to seek a restraining order against Duenez’ brother for allegedly harassing and threatening officers and their family members underscores the need to release the footage now and not later.
Taking law enforcement at its word, the decision not to release the video footage has unfairly tainted police officers as it has allowed those who do have not much faith in the Manteca Police to advance their efforts to poison the well of community opinion against officers.
At the same token, the decision not to release the footage only fuels the suspicions and fears of those that contend it’s the Wild West on the streets and that cops are acting like Wyatt Earp.
Yes, there is a due process that must be assured. But how is the Manteca situation different than other jurisdiction in California that allows the release of such footage while an “investigation” is under way into whether an officer-involved shooting is justifiable?
The official line has been that the San Joaquin County District Attorney is somehow holding up the release while DA investigators address a back log of officer-involved shooting cases throughout the county.
If this is really the case, pressure needs to be put on District Attorney James Willett’s office to get the lead out. Yes, there are budget cuts. And yes, it is a sensitive issue that needs to be thoroughly vetted.
But it is a complete disservice to law enforcement and the community to let this linger much longer.
There is a serious question being raised about whether law enforcement is acting properly and not going wild. The general public and not just the family have a right to know.
At the same time, there is a serious concern about how much the prosecution arm of San Joaquin County law enforcement is leaving the front line men and women to twist in the wind while they take their sweet time.
There was a man killed. It involved a police officer. It doesn’t get much more high priority than that.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.