The Puppycide Database Project has been following the tragic case of Autumn Mae Steele's killing at the hands of Burlington PD cop Jesse Hill since reports of the incident first came out. In our field of research, miscarriages of justice are common; few are as dismaying as the handling of the investigation of Jesse Hill by Iowa DCI "officer in charge" Rick Rahn, County Prosecutor Amy Beavers, Burlington PD Chief Doug Beaird and Iowa Assistant Attorney General Jeff Peterzalek.
We have yet to see the candor and bravery showed by the Des Moines Register editorial board when they informed their readers that Iowa officials' handling of the Jesse Hill investigation represents a full-fledged cover up:
Autumn Steele was mistakenly shot and killed by a Burlington police officer in January. As tragic and unneccessary as her death was, it was also unintentional.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the scandalous manner in which city, county and state officials have responded to Steele's death. Together, they've engaged in a deliberate, protracted effort to conceal information about the shooting and the so-called "investigation" that resulted in no charges being filed against the shooter, Officer Jesse Hill.
Unfortunately for those in the halls in power of Iowa, the Steele family are not victims. Autumn Steele's mother Gina stated their position best in her own editorial:
We demand the full and unconditional release of the DCI's investigation into Autumn's shooting. Her family and the people of Burlington deserve to know the truth.
We further demand that Officer Hill be immediately suspended from active duty. Although he may not have been charged with a crime, Officer Hill's actions recklessly disregarded the lives of the citizens he was sworn to protect. So long as Officer Hill carries a badge and a gun, none of us are truly safe.
The Steele family remains defiant in the face of a justice system's refusal to seek retribution for what is now the obviously negligent actions of Officer Hill on the awful day when he took Autumn's life mere feet from her infant son. The Steeles have organized protests in addition to their efforts with lawyers and reports:
Part of the Steele family's fight is one of transparency. While the Iowa Department of Public Safety has released 12 seconds of video retained from a camera worn by Jesse Hill at the time of the shooting, they have refused to release a variety of additional records related to the incident that have the possibility of being damning, including "a transcript of a 911 call related to the incident; other body-camera and dashboard-camera footage at the scene; and emails about the incident" according to The Register. Iowa law enables law enforcement to classify any records as secret that they choose to.
The conflicts of interest in such an arrangement when it is a member of law enforcement under investigation are as obvious as they are sundry. Changing laws is beyond the power of the Puppycide Database Project and outside of our purview. The Project's only aim is research and education. That said, through our efforts we can go a long way toward making such self-serving secrecy irrelevant. We can accomplish this by creating the same comprehensive databases and records that law enforcement refuses to.