City Council Needs An Open-Records Request To View HPD Tape

City Council members say they have begun looking into the

case of Charles Chukwu

, the man who so far has been denied access to a security video taken at the city jail that he claims may show guards beating him.

The Houston police internal affairs division has reviewed the tape and ruled that it does not substantiate Chukwu’s claims, says Chukwu, but he complained to city council last week that he should have the right to see the videotape for himself.

Council member Sue Lovell expressed concern at the meeting and, according to a member of her staff, asked HPD about the video. Lovell was apparently told that she would need to file an open records request to try to get it.

“That’s absolutely crazy,” Randall Kallinen, a civil rights attorney who appeared alongside Chukwu at the council meeting, tells Hair Balls. “Sue Lovell is part of the governing body, so the police department is telling a council member that she can’t have a copy of a tape that was taped inside the city jail? That’s just crazy.”

Chukwu has already tried to access materials related to the investigation of his claim through the open records law, but was denied by the Attorney General under a provision that exempts information dealing with investigations that do not result in a conviction.

Kallinen fears the same will happen should Lovell pursue the video through the open records act – a long way to go to get back to square one and no tape.

“I don’t see how one department of the City of Houston can tell the governing body they’re not going to release something,” he says. “They’re just passing the buck and trying to fool the public.”

Lovell will decide this week whether to file the request for the videotape, according to a staff member.

-- Chris Vogel

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