The public information officer for the city of Columbus spoke Wednesday about what the city did wrong in the aftermath of the Ricky Ball shooting and what reforms the city has made since.
“It took entirely too long for information to be released to the public,” Joe Dillon said.
Ball, 26, was shot and killed by Columbus police officer Canyon Boykin on October 16 after a traffic stop. Boykin and other officers involved in the incident did not turn their body cameras on before or during the shooting.
It was three days after Ball’s death before anyone in the city spoke publicly about the shooting. Dillon says that was a mistake.
Many people were affected by Ball’s death, he said, and the city did not do its part by releasing information.
In the weeks following the shooting, The Dispatch published editorials criticizing officials for not giving the public what information it could about Ball’s death. Dillon now says the criticism was “well-deserved, but it won’t happen again.”
The mayor and the City Council have been more open and will continue to do so moving forward, Dillon said.
When city officials did not release information about the shooting right away, Dillon said, many people assumed the city had something to hide. But the reason city officials stayed quiet was because they didn’t know anything about the investigation, which was immediately taken over by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, according to Dillon.
“We should have come out and said that,” he said.
Since Ball’s death, Columbus officials have worked to be more transparent, Dillon said.
Dillon has served as the city’s spokesperson since February, when the city council voted to enter into a contract with him. The contract pays him $24,000 a year.
Dillon said city officials have been encouraged to be available to answer questions from the public or the press.
The Columbus Police Department now also sends out regular press releases on all felony arrests, and the city notifies the public about other incidents via Twitter, Dillon said.
The CPD’s Twitter account, which was set up in November, now has more than 400 posts and is linked to the department’s Facebook page, Dillon said.
Next week the city will launch a Facebook page for Columbus Mayor Robert Smith.
The CPD’s body camera policy has gotten updates too, Dillon said, as police officers have received more training about when to have them on and to be aware of their position.
Dillon said he could not publicly release whether there had been any officers disciplined for body camera violations since Ball’s death because the information pertained to city personnel.
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