States Contemplate Public Access to Body Camera Footage

States across the country are grappling with how to handle public disclosure of body camera footage. As reported on Stateline:

As police departments across the country equip their officers with body cameras, many are struggling to strike a balance between the public’s right to know and privacy protections. 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.

The South Carolina law exempts footage recorded by the cameras from public disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. 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.

In South Carolina, 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.

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As previously reported on Conduit Street,  in Maryland a commission charged with studying and making recommendations on the best practices for the use of body cameras by a law enforcement officer recently released their final report. However, the Commission did not report best practice findings for public disclosure. From the onset, the Commission determined that changes to the Maryland Public Information Act were outside the scope of the commission’s powers and would require an act of the legislature. Accordingly the report included a recommendation to the General Assembly to address the issue. This was an important issue MACo testified on during legislative session and reinforced in testimony submitted to the Commission.

For more information read the full article on Stateline.