Maybe she was right to be scared, since she was the only student living on a floor when she found a random person asleep in the common room. Maybe she was hypersensitive, irrationally frightened by her discovery. Either way, Sarah Braasch has been hung out to dry in one of the early “Karen” myths that have wound their way into irrefutable reality when she was identified as the white woman in the “sleeping while black” scandal at Yale.
Since then, she’s sought the Yale police body cam video to prove that her concerns weren’t racial. The issue isn’t whether the video will prove her right or wrong, victim or Karen. The issue is that she’s fought to get the video released, and to at least be in the position to vindicate herself as a scared student, maybe wrongly, but not a racist.
No dice, as the proposed order concludes.
A bad outcome is one thing. It happens, and happens regularly. But the hearing officer at the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission didn’t just dismiss her action, but came up with a spectacular Catch-22 to rationalize it.
Braasch was fearful before the incident, believing herself to be the victim of harassment, and the Yale police told her to call if she was afraid, whether she was sure there was a problem or she was just scared. So she did, calling the non-emergency number about this random person asleep in the common room of her floor. She didn’t call 911 to accuse anyone of a crime or get the cops to come with guns drawn, but because she faced a situation that was inexplicable to her and, well, she was afraid.
At the hearing, the question was whether the body cam video fell within an except to the rule requiring disclosure.
II. Section 1-210(b)(3), G.S., provides that disclosure is not required of:
[r]ecords of law enforcement agencies not otherwise available to the public which records were compiled in connection with the detection or investigation of crime, if the disclosure of such records would not be in the public interest because it would result in the disclosure of … (H) uncorroborated allegations subject to destruction pursuant to section 1-216.
There are two notable aspects of this rule, the first being “uncorroborated allegations.” It’s both good and understandable that this is an exception, as it protects a person from baseless accusations being put out in the wild as if they were real. It’s an understandable inclusion, but it’s only one aspect of the exception worthy of note. The other is that disclosure “would not be in the public interest,” which is the overarching issue reached when the condition precedent, an uncorroborated allegation,” triggers it.
Nary a word about the public interest was mentioned.
Given that this incident went viral, with the woman napping in the common room being universally understood to be a Yale student, not some random criminal, and tainting Sarah Braasch in perpetuity as the racist white woman, there is an overwhelming public interest in clearing up whether this was the racial incident its held out to be or a matter of a frightened woman doing nothing more than the Yale police told her to do.
But rather than consider whether disclosure of the truth of that racial aspect of the incident was in the public interest, whether transparency was better than concealment that protected the racist narrative, the hearing officer slithered through a crack.
The Yale police decided, on their own and without regard to what Braasch did to initiate their involvement, that they were engaged in a criminal investigation. The Hearing Officer held that it didn’t matter what Braasch said or did, but was entirely up to the Yale cops to characterize their response in whatever way they deemed best. And they claimed it was criminal, at least when it came to disclosing their body cam video.
And since the upshot of their criminal investigation was that the sleeping person was a Yale student and not a criminal, the “allegations,” which weren’t criminal allegations to begin with even if Yale police chose to make them into criminal allegations, were “uncorroborated.” Poof, there is no duty to reveal the video because of the exception, which Yale police both invented and concluded despite anything Sarah could have said or done.
Sarah Braasch has written a post comparing this conundrum to the George Floyd killing, where there was no corroboration of Floyd’s committing a crime because they killed him before any investigation corroborated the allegation that he passed a bad $20.
George Floyd was accused of criminal activity, and he was never charged. Of course, he was never charged, because he was killed by the Minneapolis Police Officers present. But, simply because he was never charged with a crime, the Minneapolis Police Officers investigating, based upon the call by the store, means that CT would have denied the public access to this Police Body Camera Footage.
The comparison has some similarities, but also some distinctions that make it less than compelling. But that does not mean that the Catch-22 in which Braasch found herself didn’t present an impossible situation for a person who didn’t ask to be demonized as the poster girl for racism and is now denied the evidence that she hopes will exonerate her, not from doubts as to whether her fear was justified, but as to her fear being motivated by racism.
But would the video even do that? Beats me. I haven’t seen it. But then again, neither have all the people for whom Sarah Braasch is an irrefutable racist, not because she is but because the sleeping woman was black, Sarah was white, and that’s what the viral narrative decided.