The Dallas Police Department is attempting to block the release of information related to the use of a bomb robot that was used to kill the sniper who murdered five officers in July.
On July 7, Micah Xavier Johnson attacked a group of police officers in Dallas, Texas, killing five officers and injuring two others. Johnson was reportedly upset about the police shootings of black men and wanted to target white officers. After hours of negotiations, Dallas Police Chief David Brown decided to send in a robot armed with a brick of C-4 explosive. The robot detonated the bomb near Johnson on the campus of El Centro College in downtown Dallas. Johnson was killed in the explosion.
“Our bomb robot detonated a bomb where the suspect was,” Brown said at the time. “Other options would have subjected officers to great danger.”
This marked the first time a police department in the United States used a robot to kill an American citizen. Following the killing of Johnson, city and police officials have been inundated with public information requests from journalists seeking more information about how the robot works. The city of Dallas is attempting to suppress the data. Courthouse News reported on the situation:
Dallas Police Department officials want to block the release of “highly intimate or embarrassing” information regarding the use of a bomb disposal robot to kill a sniper who murdered five officers last month, saying it is of no legitimate concern to the public.
City officials asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for an advisory opinion on July 19, in response to at least 17 public information requests by journalists. The requests want access to robot and body camera footage, among other things.
In a letter to Paxton, Assistant City Attorney P. Armstrong argued that the requested information “is protected by common-law privacy,” which protects information that is “highly intimate or embarrassing, such that its release would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person, and it is of not legitimate concern to the public.” The letter also states that the requested data is confidential under the law and could endanger officers working undercover.
“The disclosure of the requested information that includes such information could jeopardize the safety and well-being of these officers and the confidential informants used by DPD,” the letter states. “As well, it may subject them to retaliation for offenses attained from the location if this information is disclosed.”
Following the killing of Johnson, a number of civil liberties experts raised alarm bells about establishing a precedent for law enforcement killing a suspect without a trial. Marjorie Cohn, Professor Emerita at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law and editor and contributor to Drones and Targeted Killings: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, said U.S. law enforcement is going in “the wrong direction.”
“The fact that the police have a weapon like this, and other weapons like drones and tanks, is an example of the militarization of the police and law enforcement—and goes in the wrong direction,” Cohn told Common Dreams after the incident. “We should see the police using humane techniques, interacting on a more humane level with the community, and although certainly the police officers did not deserve to die, this is an indication of something much deeper in the society, and that’s the racism that permeates the police departments across the country. It’s a real tragedy.”
Seth Stoughton, a former police officer and assistant professor of law at the University of South Carolina, told The Atlantic that the bomb robot represents “a new horizon for police technology” and “raises some new issues.”
The City of Dallas and the Dallas Police are weary of allowing the public to take a glimpse behind the curtain of police secrecy. We have entered a new era where the U.S. government assassinates American citizens via drones in foreign nations and now, we have the first example of local police using a robot armed with a bomb to explode an American citizen. Where does the technology go from here?
Can we trust the police and increasingly tyrannical government to wield such a technology? Should we put stock in their promises to only use the drones and robots when all other options have been exhausted? Leave your thoughts below.
Derrick Broze is an investigative journalist and liberty activist. He is the Lead Investigative Reporter forActivistPost.com and the founder of the TheConsciousResistance.com. Follow him on Twitter. Derrick is the author of two books: The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality and Finding Freedom in an Age of Confusion.
Derrick is available for interviews. Please contact Derrick@activistpost.com