Tuesday, September 22, 2015

States consider whether to release police body camera footage to the public

Now that many law enforcement officers are wearing body cameras, many states are deciding whether or not the public has a right to see the footage, Sarah Breitenbach reports for Stateline. Proponents of privacy say withholding footage protects victims and suspects, while critics say allowing access to footage could expose police brutality.

"This year 10 states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas—have passed laws concerning public access to the footage, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit group that assists journalists," Breitenbach writes. The Reporters Committee created an interactive map that charts body camera laws in more than 100 police departments.

In South Carolina, the law "exempts footage recorded by the cameras from public disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act," Breitenbach writes. "The goal was to protect the privacy of people recorded by police, according to Democratic state Sen. Gerald Malloy, who sponsored the legislation. Malloy noted that the measure allows people with a direct interest in a body-camera video, including the state attorney general, law enforcement agencies and subjects of recordings, to watch it." Malloy told Breitenbach, “What you want is to have some responsibility. [So] you don’t just have everyone requesting it, placing it on the Internet, those kinds of things.”

"A Georgia law that took effect in July limits who can request the videos, and pending legislation would deem the videos 'records of law enforcement' and not subject to disclosure under that state’s public records law," Breitenbach writes. (For an interactive version of this map, click here)

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