Iowa board backs police in withholding records on shooting

Autumn Steele

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa board has sided with law enforcement in a struggle over police records regarding an officer’s accidental shooting of a woman in 2015.

The Iowa Public Information Board voted 6-2 Thursday to reject complaints that the Iowa Criminal Investigation Division and the Burlington Police Department broke state law when they didn’t turn over all records amassed in the Jan. 6, 2015, shooting of Autumn Steele, The Hawk Eye reported Friday.

Steele was fatally shot by an officer responding to a fight between Steele and her husband. The officer said he tried to shoot the family’s growling dog as it attacked him but he accidentally shot Steele instead.

The Hawk Eye newspaper and her family filed complaints with the information board when the two agencies didn’t turn over all the records, including body cam videos, dash cam footage and 911 tapes.

Lawyers for the police agencies appealed an administrative law judge’s conclusion that they had violated state law. The judge’s opinion recommendation was rejected by the board’s vote Thursday.

“The city relied on well-established Iowa law when it withheld the confidential records in this matter, and the city is pleased that the board has ruled consistent with Iowa law,” Holly Corkery, an attorney representing Burlington, said in a statement Friday.

The board’s decision said the group understands the frustration with the lack of publicly available information.

“In order to assure more public information is provided under these circumstances in the future, the board has proposed legislation to expand public access to the dash cam and body cam videos and the 9-1-1 calls when a police officer is involved in a violent altercation,” the board’s decision said.

Steele’s family is considering appealing the decision, said Adam Klein, the family’s attorney.

“The family isn’t done fighting this fight,” Klein said. “There’s too much at stake.”

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