The city of Uvalde and its police department are working with a private law firm to prevent the release of public records related the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in which 19 children and two teachers were killed, according to a letter obtained this week by Vice News. As information about law enforcement response to the massacre continues to shift, members of the press, lawmakers and the Uvalde community are searching for answers. Numerous public information requests have been made following the tragedy, including many in relation to body camera footage, photos, 911 calls, emails, text messages and criminal records.
However, a recent letter from the city’s lawyer, Cynthia Trevino, who works for the private law firm Denton Navarro Rocha Bernal & Zech, to Attorney General Ken Paxton explains why those requests have gone unanswered. In the letter, Trevino asks the Republican leader to determine what public records it is required to disclose and specifies that the city received 148 public records requests about the mass shooting. However, the city “has not voluntarily released any information to a member of the public.”
Trevino also makes clear that the city and its police department want to be exempt from releasing certain records which could include “highly embarrassing information” that “would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person” and also “not of legitimate concern to the public.” The requested information could also potentially reveal “methods, techniques, and strategies for preventing and predicting crime,” Trevino writes.
It’s not clear what records, specifically, the city and police are referring to in the letter. Trevino also writes that the shooting is currently being investigated by the Texas Rangers, the FBI, and the Uvalde County District Attorney.
“They claim that the compilation of individuals’ criminal history is highly embarrassing information, which is a strange cover. The embarrassing information is the inept police response,” Christopher Schneider, a professor of sociology at Brandon University who studies police body cameras and the disclosure of footage from them, told Vice News. “They have no problem using information like that against individuals of the public. The information disclosure needs to go both ways, if that’s the case.”
A similar letter was recently sent to Paxton by the Texas Department of Public Safety seeking to suppress body-camera footage in relation to the Uvalde shooting because it could expose “weaknesses” in police response to crimes, according to Vice.
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