By Shereen Siewert
One week after an officer-involved shooting in Wausau that left one man dead, investigators have released few details about the incident; the name of the man who was shot or the officers involved remain a tightly-held secret.
But Wausau Police Chief Ben Bliven took to social media Thursday to publicly address questions he’s been asked regarding why body cam footage has not yet been released.
“Honestly, there is disagreement even with the law enforcement profession as to when video should be released after an officer involved shooting,” Bliven wrote, in his Facebook post. “But we do our best to make good decisions based on the facts of each case.”
There are a few reasons the standard practice is to not release footage until after the district attorney makes a decision on the shooting. In this instance, the Wausau Police Department doesn’t have the footage, Bliven said. All videos form the night of the shooting were taken by the investigating agency — the Wisconsin Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation — as evidence on the night of the shooting.
Those videos, which Bliven said he was allowed to view last week, are being held as evidence.
In addition, DCI interviews witnesses in order to get information that isn’t tainted by watching a video of the incident, Bliven said, pointing out that human memory isn’t perfect.
Bliven also said videos must be viewed with context.
“We saw the response to the cell phone video put onto social media last week,” Bliven said. “That cell phone video only showed a small piece of the incident and provided no context to what led up to the police contact, what officers saw and heard, or even what happened when officers initially engaged with this individual. As I stated in my press conference last week, in the initial contact with officers the individual immediately produced a firearm and shot at officers. Context is important. The full investigation gives context to the video.
“Feel free to send us a private Facebook message, email me at Benjamin.Bliven@ci.wausau.wi.us, or leave me a message at 715-261-7802 and pose your questions,” Bliven said. “Feel free to schedule a meeting with me. I’m serious. Let’s talk. I’ll even buy the coffee!”
Bliven told Wausau Pilot and Review on Thursday that he is working with DCI officials regarding releasing the names of those involved, but no clear timeline had been set.
Attempts to contact the Wisconsin Department of Justice for additional information have not been successful.