SCHENECTADY — The city is keeping under wraps the release of body-worn camera footage of an arrest that resulted in a $225,000 payout to a criminal suspect after being attacked by a police K-9.
The city formally denied The Daily Gazette’s request under the Freedom of Information Law on Monday for footage showing a police canine biting and severely injuring Ramel Gentry, who was bitten during a drug arrest in May 2019.
The records are sealed under a court order requested by the county District Attorney’s Office.
The altercation occurred during a narcotics buy involving a confidential informant, and county District Attorney Robert Carney said release of the footage would compromise operations.
“There was a sealing order because the videos would burn the confidential informant and police operations,” Carney said.
Gentry’s attorney, Kevin Luibrand, said on Monday he was unaware of the order.
Luibrand previously said Gentry was compliant during his arrest, a narrative he said would be confirmed through the release of body-worn camera footage.
But while Clifford acknowledged the K-9 latched into Gentry’s neck and shoulder unprovoked, he said Gentry was actively resisting arrest after he exited his vehicle.
Gentry was lying face down on the ground and handcuffed from behind when the K-9 lunged, ripping into his neck and shoulder, which resulted in the suspect going into convulsions from blood loss.
Yet even release of the clips may not provide a definitive degree of clarity as to what happened during the operation:
The footage is marred by an audio gap for the time period immediately preceding the attack, a measure Clifford attributed to unintentional user error as a result of officers still getting acquainted with the then-new technology.
The city authorized the payment to Gentry in October, the latest in a string of excessive force settlements, some reaching as high as $1.3 million.
Gentry, 34, was ultimately convicted on charges based on the encounter and is serving three years in state prison for criminal possession of a controlled substance and is eligible for release in 2022.
Clifford said city police don’t have the authority to ask for the record to be unsealed.
“If they wanted to unseal it, I would want to discuss the parameters as there are operational details that would need to be considered,” Clifford said, citing the vehicles and equipment used and personnel, among other factors.
“If it is limited to just the scope of the incident and nothing more, I don’t see a reason for objecting,” Clifford said. “However, I would reserve my final judgment until after consulting with the [district attorney] and [Investigative Services Bureau] commander.”