Justice

Two Photos Raise Questions About Police Transparency

Two photos showing police cruisers with their hoods up surfaced on social media last week, and some on Twitter are accusing law enforcement in Danville, Virginia of attempting to obstruct the vehicles' dashboard cameras.

A spokesperson for the Danville Police Department denied that officers were engaging in any nefarious conduct, however, civil rights advocates — including members of the group Virginia Organizing — are skeptical about the department's reasoning for raising the hoods.

Why the hoods are raised, according to police:

"We noticed over several years the cars were — I don’t want to say overheating, but the engines do get hot," DPD Lt. Mike Wallace told River City TV on Monday. He said that raising the hood helped keep the vehicles cool, which reduced the frequency of repairs and also allowed the department's canine units to be more comfortable during calls. The department's policy also stipulates that hoods can only be raised during non-emergency situations, he said.

As far as the viral photos are concerned, Wallace said that "nationally, some narratives have been added to those photographs from individuals who don’t know the circumstances behind the photographs." Snopes reported that one of the photos was taken "during a lengthy investigation on a hot day to prevent the units from overheating and not to obstruct the units' dash cams."

Why activists are concerned:

Still, the images come amid national protests over police shootings and renewed calls for transparency in policing.

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It could certainly be the case that police in Danville have raised their vehicles' hoods in the interest of preserving law enforcement resources and keeping the vehicles cool, but police reform advocates argue that there's no acceptable excuse for obscuring dashboard cameras — that in emergency and non-emergency situations, footage of police encounters helps protect citizens and officers alike.

"Our perspective is we want everyone to be safe," Ebony Guy, a community activist with the nonprofit Virginia Organizing, told ATTN:. "The dashboard camera should be on not only to protect the citizens of Danville, Virginia, but also to protect our officers. We want every vantage point available to make sure that our law enforcement did everything by the letter."

ATTN: called the Danville Police Department for clarification, but a representative was not immediately available.